Arriving in Paraguay on Friday, Pope Francis recognized the particular contribution of women in the nation’s warn-torn past. The Pope said that he would “like to acknowledge with profound admiration the role played by the women of Paraguay in those dramatic historical moments.” “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.” Women played a key role in rebuilding society after the Paraguayan War, which lasted from 1864-1870, resulted in the deaths of an estimated 60-70 percent of the overall population, and 70-90 percent of the male population, leaving a 4-to-1 ratio of women to men. Francis spoke of the suffering of the nation, through war, fratricidal conflict and other human rights problems. “Yet the Paraguayan people have also shown an admirable spirit of perseverance in surmounting adversities and in working to build a prosperous and peaceful nation,” he continued. “I wish to pay tribute to the many ordinary Paraguayan people, whose names are not written in history books but who have been, and continue to be, the real protagonists in the life of your nation.” The Pope’s remarks came July 10, in an address to Paraguayan leaders in the gardens of the Presidential Palace in the capital of Asuncion. The Pope pledged the Church’s support for building a just society “where each person can live in peace and harmony.” Paraguay is the final country of Pope Francis’ July 5-July 12 Latin America visit. He previously stopped in Ecuador and Bolivia. Noting the country’s reputation for hospitality and friendliness, the pontiff invited those present to promote the common good, five priority to the poor and needy, and follow Christ on the “path of mercy.” “Our sure faith in God, who willed to become man, to live among us and to share our lot, urges us to press forward,” he said. “Christ opens up to us the path of mercy, which, founded on justice, goes beyond it to inspire works of charity, so that no one will remain on the fringes of this great family which is Paraguay, a land you love and which you wish to serve.” The Pope encouraged Paraguayans to work against homelessness and the displacement of farm workers, and to address and a lack of education and employment. “May there be an end to violence, corruption and drug trafficking,” he said. He encouraged authentic economic development that serves human dignity and especially the most vulnerable. “A people which forgets its own past, its history and its roots, has no future,” the Pope continued. At the same time, he called for a memory of the past that is based on justice and that rejects hatred and desire for revenge. Memory of the past also “makes us realize the tragedy and pointlessness of war.” “Let there be an end to wars between brothers! Let us always build peace!” Pope Francis said. He praised progress towards democracy and encouraged continued work to strengthen the country’s institutions. He said there is a need to reaffirm dialogue as the best means of promoting the common good. The common good must be promoted “on the basis of a culture of encounter, respect and acknowledgment of the legitimate differences and opinions of others.” To overcome “a spirit of constant conflict,” Pope Francis encouraged Paraguay’s leaders to blend their ideological convictions or party interest with “love of the country and its people.” “That love must be the incentive to increased administrative transparency and unceasing efforts to combat corruption,” he said. He prayed for God’s blessings on Paraguay and asked that all Paraguayans might embrace Our Lady of Caacupe, a subject of popular Marian devotion in the country.
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