The millions of people who gathered to see Pope Francis in Latin America showed without a doubt that most Latinos are still Catholic. In each place he visited, the Holy Father was received with all the honors and privileges, and treated as a spiritual celebrity.
Myself being from Latin America, the Pope’s visit made me follow the news and stay attentive to his words, more so than any other news.
Now that he is back in Rome, I would like to share what I learned from the Pope through his messages and actions during his visit to South America:
Give Hope. It really moved me when I learned that Pope Francis visited a prison—one considered the most dangerous in Bolivia. He said to them, “I could not leave without seeing you, without sharing that faith and hope which are the fruit of the love revealed on the cross of Christ.”
Be Humble. The Holy Father asked people to pray for him during his speech to prisoners and their families in Bolivia: “I ask you, please, to keep praying for me, because I too have my mistakes and I too must do penance.”
Stand in Solidarity with others. He said, “if your life is easy, there are others for whom it is not easy.” He reminded people to reach out and say to their struggling brothers and sisters, “We are here. We are with you,” and, “A faith which does not draw us into solidarity is a faith which is dead; it is a faith without Christ.”
Be Attentive and Renew Your Heart. “The Christian journey is about changing hearts,” he said. He urged to be attentive to social injustice, saying that “to pass by, without hearing the pain of our people, without sinking roots in their lives and in their world, is like listening to the word of God without letting it take root and bear fruit in our hearts.”
Be Devoted to Mary. Pope Francis held a white rose as he prayed at the Shrine of the Virgin of Caacupé, in Paraguay; also, he offered prayers and gifts on behalf of the Bolivian people to Our lady of Copacabana, Patroness of Bolivia; and he venerated the Virgen del Quinche in Quito, Ecuador by giving her flowers.
Be Strong. During his marathon trip to Latin America, Francis showed his super-pope side. After visiting and giving speeches in nursing homes, prisons, churches, schools, hospitals, etc., and having conversations with political, religious, civilian, and educational leaders, his doctor remarked, “He is tired, but he enjoys good health.”
Be Funny. “I am going to give you the blessing, but I am not going to charge you anything.” Those were his words in Spanish during his visit to Divine Mercy Shrine in Guayaquil, Ecuador, where he joked with parishioners.