Francis cited Ecuador's natural beauty in his arrival words."From the peak of Chimborazo (volcano) to the Pacific coast, from the Amazon rainforest to the Galapagos Islands, may you never lose the ability to thank God for what he has done and is doing for you," he said."May you never lose the ability to protect what is small and simple, to care for your children and your elderly, to have confidence in the young, and to be constantly struck by the nobility of your people and the singular beauty of your country."
On Monday, Francis will fly south to the coastal city of Guayaquil to deliver a mass before heading back to Quito to meet with Correa. On Tuesday he is to deliver a mass at Quito's Bicentenario Park, where some were already camped out to see him. On Wednesday, Francis moves on to Bolivia, where he is expected to defend the rights of indigenous people. In Bolivia, he will also visit the notoriously violent Palmasola prison.
Landlocked Paraguay, the last stop, is notorious for contraband smuggling and illicit financing. Francis will meet several groups of social activists while he is there. While all three countries are between 82 percent and 93 percent Catholic, the Church in other parts of Latin America is losing followers to Protestant evangelical groups. Identification with Catholicism is declining throughout the region, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center. The pope, however, has felt more comfortable holding dialogues with these groups than his two immediate predecessors did. He had good relations with Protestant evangelical groups when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires. (Additional reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Jeffrey Benkoe)