PARAGUAY, by María Fischer, editors •
“Thank you, Holy Father…” The moment the Alitalia plane approached the airport in Asunción, the crowds began singing the official hymn for Pope Francis’ visit to Paraguay. The hymn by the group, “Nazarenos,” with its simple lyrics which are the simultaneously loving and express commitment, had already been heard so many times and with great joy, given that four of the nine “Nazarenos” members belong to Schoesntatt, and that the “Nazarenos” have sung at the shrine in Tuparendá. This song would accompany the whole live transmission on Paraguayan television via the security cameras in Asunción that captured the entire journey.
Paraguayan Schoenstatt members were at the airport, while others were behind the human chain of marshals between the airport and the Nunciature, and many of the Schoenstatt members in Paraguay and other countries who were following the live transmission on CTV were united in this song and shared photographs on WhatApp. There were no words to express such emotion…
“The Holy Father is on Paraguayan soil,” said a television presenter at the airport, where it was raining buckets. Sonia Zaracho sent a photograph of young people in the street jumping up and down to greet the Pope in the Alitalia airplane that could be seen through the grey sky…and another showing groups of Schoenstatters around the Youth Shrine, near to where the Holy Father’s convoy would pass.
The Pope descended from the plane, greeted…the children in the choir cried with emotion as they sang: “Thank you Holy Father…messenger of joy and peace…”
Running towards the Holy Father
“Indescribable, emotional and in the rain,” commented Sebastián Acha. “It is a day filled with emotions, it’s impossible to describe the joy that the Holy Father’s visit evokes in us,” describes Sandra Lezcano, from the Schoenstatt.org team.
In his first steps on Paraguayan soil, the Pope saw the Schoenstatt bishops, Bishop Claudio Giménez and Bishop Francisco Pistilli. Immediately a photograph was sent from the airport, taken very close to Pope Francis…sent by Bishop Francisco Pistilli to Schoenstatt.org with the caption: “Blessings.”
It was a warm welcome at the airport, without conversations but with a beautiful presentation of a traditional Paraguayan religious dance. Susi Saco, the director of the folk ballet, is a Schoenstatt member. It is the same dance that is used on 18 October each year.
Once the presentation and the hymns were concluded, the Holy Father headed towards the children’s choir, leaving the red carpet…and this was the most touching moment.
Several dozen little children leapt over the security barrier and “tackled” the Holy Father, who allowed himself to be hugged, cuddled and kissed by the children. Spiritually, we all ran with them.
A real celebration on the streets
“We are so happy to have Pope Francis in Paraguay, it is a real celebration on the streets, and people have held a vigil along the route that the Pope will take, they did not fall asleep due to their immense emotion,” wrote Diana and Alejandro Caballero.
Ani Souberlich recounts: “The weather tested our faith and trust and, despite the rain and the dark skies, nothing could overcome our HOPE and LOVE, and we didn’t move from where we were. It is so beautiful…there are no words! And the best of all was exactly at the moment when Francis passed us, between the drizzle and the sun…a rainbow appeared!! So beautiful and so meaningful that it reminded me of the sentence: “We have sealed a covenant with you.” It is a sign that God gives us, as a sign of his promise.”
“We were super happy….everyone very happy…and very blessed,” said Graciela Vera from the Tuparendá pastoral team.
Many Schoenstatt members were part of the 13km chain of marshals from the airport to the Nunciature. “We were part of the chain of marshals, together with Yvonne, my wife, my children, and nephews,” commented Alberto Sallustro.
“We waited in front of the women’s prison,” commented Fr. Pedro Kühlcke. “A choir of prisoners sang to the Pope.” He stopped to greet them…
Pilgrim Mothers greet the Pope
There were flags, balloons, bibles raised up, pictures of Our Lady of Caacupé, and there Pilgrim Mothers and more Pilgrim Mothers. Bishop Francisco Pistilli came out to greet the Schoenstatters who were waiting with their Pilgrim Mothers held high…
During his time at the Nunciature, the Pope was offered a traditional Paraguayan afternoon snack with a hot mate [traditional drink] and some rich “chipá” (a traditional bread or biscuit made from yam flour and cheese). “This is the same snack that he used to share with the Paraguayan families during his visits to the houses in Villa 21 de Barracas in Buenos Aires, commented Claudia Echenique from Buenos Aires.
Hundreds of thousands of people were expected to gather on the streets, when later the Holy Father travelled between the Nunciature to the Government Palace for the meeting with the authorities and the Paraguayan diplomatic corps at the Gardens of López Palace in Asunción.
A programme to last until the 200th Schoenstatt anniversary…
The Pope gave the Paraguayan president a copy of the image of “Mater Ecclesiae” in St. Peters.
“A messenger of the joy of love and solidarity,” said the Paraguayan president who praised the word of the papal encyclical as a “monument against indifference.” For his part, Francis declared that he “felt at home and it isn’t difficult to feel at home in this country that is so welcoming.”
Meeting with Bishop Francisco Pistilli in front of the Nunciature
“May all social groups work to ensure that there will never again be children without access to schooling, families without homes, workers without dignified employment, small farmers without land to cultivate, or campesinos forced to leave their lands for an uncertain future. May there be an end to violence, corruption and drug trafficking,” said Francis in a speech to the civil authorities and the diplomatic body. He denounced “economic development which fails to take into account the weakest and underprivileged is not an authentic development. Economic progress must be measured by the integral dignity of persons, especially the most vulnerable and helpless.”
We immediately think of the 100 solidarity houses (jubilee gift from Schoenstatt.org to the Holy Father), Dequeni, Fr. Pedro Kühlcke’s prison ministry, and so many Schoenstatt projects that show social commitment and solidarity…it is a program to last until the 200th Schoenstatt anniversary.
Much later, the day ended at the Youth Shrine where many young people watched the live transmission of the Pope’s journey through Asunción, while they made the final preparations for the youth meeting on Sunday. They ended the day with Holy Mass, praying for Pope Francis and praying for all of his allies…”we united ourselves in this covenant of solidarity,” José Arguello wrote on WhatsApp, adding: “On Sunday at 5am local time, the Youth Ministry of the Rosary Campaign will pray the rosary in Ñu Guazú before the main mass.”
“If the people of Paraguay are characterized as being joyful, let me tell you that during these days, we are overflowing with joy,” wrote Sandra Lezcano on Saturday morning before joining the marshals until Sunday.
Looking at the images of the various activities and celebrations, it seems that Francis is also overflowing with joy on Paraguayan soil.
Young people of the Schoenstatt Rosary Campaign waiting for Pope Francis
Pope Francis speech
Distinguished Government Authorities,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I offer cordial greetings to you, Mr President, and I thank you for your respectful and affectionate words of welcome in the name of the government, the civil authorities and the beloved Paraguayan people. I also greet the distinguished members of the diplomatic corps, and through them, I express my respect and esteem to the countries they represent.
A particular word of thanks is due to all those individuals and institutions which worked so hard to prepare this visit and to make me feel at home. It is not hard to feel at home in so welcoming a land. Paraguay is known as the heart of America, not only because of its geographic location, but also because of the warmth of its hospitality and the friendliness of her people.
From the first days of the country’s independence to recent times, Paraguay has known the terrible sufferings brought on by war, fratricidal conflict, lack of freedom and contempt for human rights. How much suffering and death! Yet the Paraguayan people have also shown an admirable spirit of perseverance in surmounting adversities and in working to build a prosperous and peaceful nation. Here, in the garden of this palace which has witnessed so much of the country’s history – from the time when it was no more than a riverbank used by the Guaraní, until the present day – I wish to pay tribute to the many ordinary Paraguayan people, whose names are not written in history books but who have been, and continue to be, the real protagonists in the life of your nation. I would also like to acknowledge with profound admiration the role played by the women of Paraguay in those very dramatic historical moments, especially during that horrible war which almost managed to destroy fraternity among our peoples. As mothers, wives and widows, they shouldered the heaviest burdens; they found a way to move their families and their country forward, instilling in new generations the hope of a better tomorrow. May God bless Paraguayan women, the most glorious of all in the Americas!
A people which forgets its own past, its history and its roots, has no future, it is a dull people. Memory, if it is firmly based on justice and rejects hatred and all desire for revenge, makes the past a source of inspiration for the building of a future of serene coexistence. It also makes us realize the tragedy and pointlessness of war. Let there be an end to wars between brothers! Let us always build peace! A peace which which grows stronger day by day, a peace which makes itself felt in everyday life, a peace to which each person contributes by seeking to avoid signs of arrogance, hurtful words, contemptuousness, and instead by working to foster understanding, dialogue and cooperation.
For some years now, Paraguay has sought to build a solid and stable democracy. It is proper to recognize with satisfaction progress made in this direction, thanks to the efforts of everyone, even amid great difficulties and uncertainties. I encourage you to continue working to strengthen the democratic structures and institutions, so that they can respond to the legitimate aspirations of the nation’s people. The form of government adopted by your Constitution, a “representative, participative and pluralistic democracy” based on the promotion of and respect for human rights, must banish the temptation to be satisfied with a purely formal democracy, one which, as Aparecida put it, is content with being “founded on fair election procedures” (Aparecida Document, 74). That is a purely formal democracy.
In every sector of society, but above all in public service, there is a need to reaffirm that dialogue is the best means of promoting the common good, on the basis of a culture of encounter, respect and acknowledgment of the legitimate differences and opinions of others. In the effort to overcome a spirit of constant conflict, unity is always better than conflict; convictions born of ideology or partisan interest should blend advantageously with love of the country and its people. That love must be the incentive to increased administrative transparency and unceasing efforts to combat corruption. I know that today there exists a firm desire to root out corruption.
Dear friends, in the desire to serve and promote the common good, the poor and needy have to be given priority of place. Paraguay has done much to advance along the path of economic growth. Important steps have been taken in the areas of education and health care. May all social groups work to ensure that there will never again be children without access to schooling, families without homes, workers without dignified employment, small farmers without land to cultivate, or campesinos forced to leave their lands for an uncertain future. May there be an end to violence, corruption and drug trafficking. An economic development which fails to take into account the weakest and underprivileged is not an authentic development. Economic progress must be measured by the integral dignity of persons, especially the most vulnerable and helpless.
Mr President, dear friends, in the name of my brothers, the bishops of Paraguay, I also wish to assure you of the commitment and cooperation of the Catholic Church in the common effort to build a just and inclusive society where each person can live in peace and harmony. All of us, including the Church’s pastors, are called to be concerned with building a better world (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 183). Our sure faith in God, who willed to become man, to live among us and to share our lot, urges us to press forward. Christ opens up to us the path of mercy, which, founded on justice, goes beyond it to inspire works of charity, so that no one will remain on the fringes of this great family which is Paraguay, a land you love and wish to serve.
With great joy that I have come to this country consecrated to the Blessed Virgin of Caacupé – and here I would like to remember in a special my Paraguayan brothers and sisters in Buenos Aires, my former Diocese; they belong to the parish of the Virgin of the Miracles of Caacupé – I invoke the Lord’s blessings on each of you, your families and all the beloved people of Paraguay. May this country be fruitful, as symbolized by the pasiflora flower on Our Lady’s mantle, and may the national colors which decorate her image draw all the Paraguayan people to embrace the Mother of Caacupé.
Thank you very much.
(Translation from www.vatican.va)
|First photos taken by Schoenstatters|
Welcome at the Airport
Meeting with the Paraguayan authorities and diplomatic corp in the Gardens of López Palace in Asunción
Original: Spanish; Translation: Sarah-Leah Pimentel, South Africa