As Pope Francis, an Argentinian, makes his way around South America for his second tour on the continent since his election to the papacy in 2013, he will make stops in Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay during his week-long trip, which ends Sunday with his return to Rome.
First stop: Ecuador, where President Rafael Correa greeted Pope Francis with a hug. At the airport, the pope called for people to give “special attention to our most fragile brothers and the most vulnerable minorities, the debt that is still owed by Latin America,” the New York Times reported. The pope was then driven through the streets of Quito.
He also held open-air masses in the city of Quayaquil and in Quito and met with church leaders.
He then departed for Bolivia on Wednesday, drinking coca tea on the plane as a remedy for altitude sickness.
That evening, he gave a speech to Bolivian authorities. "In this land whose history has been marred by exploitation, greed and so many forms of selfishness and sectarianism, now is the time for integration," he said, CNN reported.
The next day, he addressed social activists Thursday in Santa Cruz, offering a historic and major apology for the role of the Roman Catholic Church during the era of colonialism. The resources and people of Bolivia, like other Latin American countries, were gravely exploited under Spanish rule, and the Vatican benefited in part from those profits, he said.
“Some may rightly say, ‘When the pope speaks of colonialism, he overlooks certain actions of the church,’” the Pope said, the New York Times reported. “I say this to you with regret: Many grave sins were committed against the native people of America in the name of God.”
"I want to tell you, and I want to be very clear: I humbly ask your forgiveness, not only for the offenses committed by our own church, but for the crimes committed by original inhabitants during the so-called conquest of America," Agence France-Presse reported.
He presided at a mass in Santa Cruz de la Sierra.
Pope Francis is scheduled to depart for Paraguay Friday.