QUITO: Pope Francis called for dialogue on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) in front of nearly one million people at an outdoor mass in Ecuador’s capital, before launching an appeal for better care of the Amazon.
The pope addressed approximately 900,000 faithful who braved the cold and rain to hear his homily in Bicentennial Park, Quito – a city recently rocked by anti-government protests.
The Argentine-born pontiff focused his message on “our revolution,” the need to spread the Roman Catholic faith.
“The enormous richness of variety moves us away from the temptation of offers that are closer to dictatorships, ideologies or sectarianism,” said Francis, the first Latin American pope.
“Fight for inclusion at all levels,” he implored, while pleading for “dialogue” on the third day of a South American tour that will also take him to Bolivia and Paraguay.
Later, in a meeting with social organizations – including indigenous peoples opposed to oil extraction on their lands – the Pope stressed the important role the Amazon plays in the “global ecosystem” and said that its “enormous diversity” requires particular care.
“Ecuador – together with other countries with Amazonian land – has a chance to practice the teachings of integral ecology,” he said.
The Pope, recalling his encyclical last month that appealed for quick action against climate change, called on Tuesday for the Earth to be left a better place for future generations.
“One thing is clear, we cannot continue turning our back on reality, on our brothers, on Mother Earth,” he said during a meeting with teachers and students in northern Quito.
Environmental issues have created a headache for President Rafael Correa’s eight-year-old administration, with ongoing protests by indigenous peoples over land damage that they say is due to mining and oil extraction.
The government has been beset by a separate set of protests in recent weeks over Correa’s socialist policies, which have angered business leaders as well as the upper and middle classes, who want him to step down.
Correa, an admirer of the Pope, had a private meeting with Francis late Monday. The Pope later said he would bless the country so that internal differences might be reconciled.