Kicking off his visit to South America on Monday, Pope Francis delivered an open-air Mass to over a million people in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city. Many in the crowd had spent the night in Los Samanes Park to secure their places, and many had walked for miles to attend.

Ecuador is the first stop on the pontiff’s highly anticipated weeklong trip, which includes stops in Bolivia and Paraguay.

The Wall Street Journal reports.

The pope’s schedule for the week features a number of events reflecting his concern for social and economic justice. Arriving in Ecuador on Sunday, he called for sharing the benefits of development with the “most fragile of our brothers and sisters and the most vulnerable minorities.”

Monday’s Mass was dedicated to the family, which he called the “nearest hospital, the first school for the young, the best home for the elderly,” and a refuge where “no one is rejected.”

“The family constitutes the best ‘social capital.’ It cannot be replaced by other institutions. It needs to be helped and strengthened,” he said.

But Pope Francis acknowledged that the ideal of the family is an elusive one for many.

“How many women, sad and lonely, wonder when love left, when it slipped away from their lives? How many elderly people feel left out of family celebrations, cast aside and longing each day for a little love?” the pope said, noting that unhappiness can also arise from “unemployment, illness and difficult situations which our families may experience.”

Pope Francis said the October 2015 Synod of Bishops on the family, which he noted would take place just before the opening of a special “year of mercy,” would seek “concrete solutions to the many difficulties and important challenges” of contemporary families.

The pope didn’t specify which difficulties and challenges would be discussed at the synod. But the first session of the two-part event, in October of last year, was the scene of heated controversy over proposals to make it easier for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion—an act prohibited by church law—and to recognize the positive aspects of so-called irregular unions, including those between unmarried and same-sex partners.

The full article can be read here.

–Posted by Roisin Davis

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