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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Visit to the president of Ecuador and Quito Cathedral

Vatican City, 7 July 2015 (VIS) – The Pope spent the last part of his second day in Ecuador in the capital, Quito, where he paid a courtesy visit to President Rafael Correa at Carondelet Palace, the seat of the government. Built in the late eighteenth century by the Spanish architect Antonio Garcia, it is located in the historic centre of the city and owes its name to the governor Francisco Luis Hector, baron of Carondelet, under whose mandate it was constructed. During the colonial period it was known as the Royal Palace, but according to legend Simon Bolivar, in admiration of its facade, changed its name in memory of the governor.

Upon arrival President Correa greeted the Pope with a warm embrace; they then entered the Protocol Room where they spoke in private. The president subsequently introduced his family to the Holy Father and gifts were exchanged. Francis gave the Ecuadorian head of State a mosaic depicting the Virgin and Child, a copy realised by the Vatican Museums mosaic laboratory of the image from the Chapel of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Roman basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, before which St. Ignatius of Loyola and his first followers gave their religious vows on 22 August 1541, thereby originating the Society of Jesus.

At the end of his visit, the bishop of Rome and the president appeared at the balcony of Carondelet Palace to greet the crowd gathered in Plaza de la Independencia. The Pope travelled on foot the fifty metres between the Palace and the Metropolitan Cathedral of Quito, which invokes the Coronation of the Virgin Mary. The Cathedral, completed in 1585, represents a combination of styles, from the Gothic-Mudejar (Moorish) to Baroque and neo-Classical, and it houses the remains of Antonio Jose Francisco de Sucre y Alcala, the Mariscal Sucre (1795-1830), hero of South American independence.

The Holy Father entered the cathedral where he was received by the rector; after greeting various sick and disabled people gathered inside, he prayed a moment. Upon leaving, almost at night-time, he blessed the thousands of people congregated in the square, setting aside the brief discourse he had previously prepared, and addressed the following words to them:

“I give you my blessing, to each one of you, to your families, to all your loved ones and to the great and noble Ecuadorian people, so that there may be no more difference, no more exclusion, so that no-one is discarded, so that all may be brothers, so that everyone is included and no-one is left out of this great Ecuadorian nation. To every one of you and your families, I give my blessing. But first, let us pray the Hail Mary together...”.

“May the blessing of God Almighty, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, descend upon you and remain with you for ever. And please, I ask you to pray for me. Good night, and see you tomorrow”.

Today, 7 July, Pope Francis will meet the bishops of Ecuador and will celebrate Holy Mass in the Bicentenario Park in Quito. Later he will visit the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador, where he will receive the keys to the capital in the Church of St. Francis and address those present. He will conclude the day with a private visit to the Church of the Society of Jesus.

The following is the brief discourse the Pope had prepared, to be given outside Quito Cathedral:

“I have come to Quito as a pilgrim, to share with you the joy of spreading the Gospel. When I left the Vatican, I passed the statue of Saint Mariana de Jesus, who from the apse of St. Peter’s Basilica keeps watch over the little street which the Pope travels so often. I entrusted to her the fruits of this visit, and I prayed that all of us might learn from her example. Her sacrifice and her heroic virtue are usually represented by a flower, a lily. Yet, at St. Peter’s she holds a whole bouquet of flowers. Along with her own flower, she offers the Lord, in the heart of the Church, your flowers, and the flowers of all the people of Ecuador.

“The Saints call us to imitate them and to learn from them. This was the case with St. Narcisa de Jesus and Blessed Mercedes de Jesus Molina, who were challenged by St. Mariana’s example. How many of you here today have known what it is to be orphaned? How many of you have had to assume the responsibility of looking after younger brothers or sisters, despite being young yourselves? How many of you care daily with great patience for the sick or the elderly? Mariana did just this, and Narcisa and Mercedes followed her example. It is not difficult if God is with us. They accomplished no great feats in the eyes of the world. They simply loved much, and they showed this love in their daily lives, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others, in his people. Nor did they do this alone, they did it 'side by side' with others. All the work that went into the building of this Cathedral was done that same way, our way, the way of the native peoples, quietly and unassumingly working alongside one another for the good of the community, without seeking credit or applause. God grant that, just as the stones of this cathedral were carried by those who went before us, we may carry one another’s burdens, and thus help to build up or heal the lives of so many of our brothers and sisters incapable of doing it by themselves.

“Today I am here with you, and you have shared with me the joy which fills your hearts: 'How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings'. This is the beauty we are called to spread, like an aroma of Christ: our prayer, our good works, and our sacrifices for those most in need. This is the joy of evangelising and 'blessed are you if you do these things'.

“God bless you all”.

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