EL ALTO, Bolivia – Pope Francis praised the beauty of Bolivia in his remarks upon arriving at the El Alto airport, where he was received by President Evo Morales.
Francis said he was happy to have arrived in a nation “that promotes the culture of peace and the right to peace.”
The Argentine pontiff, who arrived from Ecuador, the first stop on his three-nation Latin American tour, emphasized that Bolivia is “taking important steps to include broad sectors in the country’s economic, social and political life.”
And he added that the country “has a constitution that recognizes the rights of individuals, minorities, the environment and (has) institutions sensitive to these realities.”
Nevertheless, said Francis, that “requires a spirit of public cooperation, of dialogue and the participation of individual and social actors in questions that interest everyone.”
“How much joy it gives us to know that the Spanish (language) brought to these lands today coexists with 36 original languages, blending, as they do in the national flowers ... to give beauty and unity in diversity,” he said.
He also praised the “unique beauty” of Bolivia, a country – he said – “blessed by God in its different zones: the altiplano, the valleys, the Amazon lands, the deserts, the incomparable lakes.”
The pontiff called himself a “guest and pilgrim” in Bolivia who had arrived “to confirm the faith in Christ of the believers.”
Out of concern for the possible health effects from the high altitude, the 78-year-old pope will spend only a few hours in La Paz before traveling later on Wednesday to the lowland eastern city of Santa Cruz.
Francis on Thursday will celebrate a huge Mass at the base of the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Santa Cruz.