MEXICO CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis is expected to arrive July 6 in Ecuador, starting a three-country tour of his home continent, the Associated Press reported from Quito.
The trip, the pope’s second to South America since being elected in March 2013, also would include stops in Bolivia and Paraguay, two fast-growing countries in recent years, but still among the poorest on the continent.
The pope is expected to spend two days in Ecuador, celebrating Mass July 7 in Quito and meeting with priests and seminarians the next day at the Our Lady of the Presentation of El Quinche shrine, 20 miles from Quito, Archbishop Luis Cabrera Herrera of Cuenca told the Associated Press.
Vatican officials normally do not announce the official itinerary for papal trips until closer to the time of the trip.
The Italian blog Il Sismografo, citing local news reports, said Pope Francis would fly July 8 to La Paz, Bolivia, where he would spend six hours and celebrate Mass in the neighboring city of El Alto — situated at an elevation of more than 13,000 feet. He would then spend July 9 in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, the country’s economic hub and located at a lower elevation, then move on to Paraguay July 10.
In Paraguay, Pope Francis is expected arrive in the capital, Asuncion, and visit Caacupe, the Catholic heart of the country, July 11, Il Sismografo reported. There, according to Archbishop Edmundo Valenzuela Mellid of Asuncion, the pope is to meet with religious in the Our Lady of Caacupe Basilica, and celebrate a Mass, which is expected to draw 1 million people from Paraguay and neighboring Argentina.
The pope would return to Asuncion July 12 for a meeting with the president and politicians, the celebration of Mass and his departure for Rome.
Pope Francis told reporters on the papal plane after his trip to the Philippines in January that he would like to visit three Latin American countries in 2015, along with the United States in September and two African countries later in the year. He said that he would also like to travel to Chile, Uruguay and his native Argentina in 2016.
In a letter to Colombian bishops for Holy Week this year, Pope Francis said he wanted to visit to encourage peace. Interviewed on Colombian television April 6, President Juan Manuel Santos said the visit likely would be in 2016 during a trip that also may include Peru, Chile and Argentina.