Five years since pope's trip to Paraguay: Faith without solidarity is faith without Christ
The final stage of his historical trip through South America in July of 2015 took place in Paraguay. The country welcomed the pope with rain... and music.
A children's choir... wouldn't let him leave.
In the presidential palace, then-president Horacio Cortes greeted him on behalf of the entire country.
“People come first. The fight against poverty and marginalization. We try to serve God, feeling a personal responsibility to serve our fellow brothers and sisters.”
Pope Francis praised the courage of Paraguayan women, who rebuilt this land without resentment, after the war with Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina, which left many men dead.
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.
One of the most moving moments was his visit to this children's hospital.
A blessing for all of you to heal, and I'm also going to give a rosary to each one of you.
He also visited the shrine of Caacupé, the country's most important sanctuary. There, he celebrated Mass and prayed the Our Father in Guarani.
The pope visited the capital's most impoverished neighborhood, Bañado Norte, where thousands of people were waiting for him.
He went inside some of the houses to greet residents, and he explained that faith without solidarity is dead.
A faith which does not draw us into solidarity is a faith which is dead or a lie. 'I am very Catholic. I am very Catholic. I go to Church every Sunday.' But tell me, mister, madame, what happens in Bañado Norte? 'Oh, I don't know. I know that there are people there, but I don't know.' More than going to Mass on Sundays, if you do not have a heart of solidarity, if you don't know what happens to your people, then your faith is weak, or it is sick, or it is dead. It's a faith without Christ. Faith without solidarity is a faith without Christ, a faith without God, a faith without fraternity.
The most widely attended Mass was this one in Ñu Guazú, under an impressive altarpiece made out of corn and vegetables.
Today the Lord says to us quite clearly: In the Gospel, you do not convince people with arguments, strategies or tactics. You convince them by learning how to welcome them.
He saved his final large meeting for the youth. He spent the evening with them, on the bank of the Paraguay River. He told them to live without fear and to not be afraid to dream.
We don't want young weaklings, young people who are neither here nor there. We do not want young people who get tired quickly and live tired, with a face of boredom. We need young people who are strong, with hope and strength. Why? Because they know Jesus and know God. Because they have a free heart.
In the same way the people welcomed the pope with music, they said goodbye with singing and dancing.
That was the grand finale of eight intense days throughout which the pope enjoyed the company and warmth of millions of people.