These are the thousands of pilgrims who celebrated Mass with Pope Francis at the Nu Guasu Park in Paraguay. And it wasn't just Paraguayans who attended. They were joined by thousands of their neighbors from Argentina. Among them was the Argentine President Cristina Kirchner, who sat next to the Paraguayan president during the Mass.
Nu Guasu Park is the same place that Pope John Paul II met with thousands of young people in 1988. This time, Pope Francis presided over Mass with a spectacular altar, partially made of corn. It was designed by the artist Koki Ruiz.
In his Homily, the Pope said that Christ's disciples have to be welcoming.
"It is about learning to live differently, under a different law, with different rules. It is about turning from the path of selfishness, conflict, division and superiority, and taking instead the path of life, generosity and love. It is about passing from a mentality which domineers, stifles and manipulates to a mentality which welcomes, accepts and cares.”
The Pope explained that evangelization isn't successful because of strategy or tactics. Instead, God prefers other methods.
"Today the Lord says to us quite clearly: in the mentality of the Gospel, you do not convince people with arguments, strategies or tactics. You convince them by learning how to welcome them.”
For that reason, the Pope added, the Church is a hospitable home and it must keep its doors open. It should be able to cure one of the most harmful diseases: loneliness.
"How much it destroys our life and how much harm it does us. It makes us turn our back on others, God, the community. It makes us closed in on ourselves. That is why the real work of the Church, our mother, is not mainly to manage works and projects, but to learn how to live in fraternity with others.”
The Archbishop of Asuncion thanked Pope Francis for visiting Paraguay and told him that his fellow Paraguayans pray for him. Later, the Orthodox Archbishop of Buenos Aires, an old friend of Pope Francis', thanked him for his visit as well. Both the presidents of Argentina and Paraguay greeted the Pope at the end of the Mass.