The countries are also small in population and weight compared to regional powerhouses like Chile and Argentina, where Francis is planning to visit in 2016 along with Uruguay. It ranks as the second-most corrupt in South American, behind Venezuela, according to non-government organization Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index.
Francis, who is the first Jesuit pope and also the first from South America, will give a Holy Mass to be broadcast in eight languages on Monday.
“Ecuador is the eco-centre of the world“, Correa said in a welcome speech, noting the extraordinary biodiversity of his nation, which is thought to be home to more than one million species, or more than one-tenth of the world’s total.
“The big question is: Will the wild popularity of Pope Francis translate into numbers for the church?”
But whether a change of image at the top will be followed by results on the ground remains a pressing question around the region.
Ecuador’s president appears to be trying to capitalize on Pope Francis’ huge popularity. Catholic authorities say the pope used the word “distribution”, not “redistribution”. In a survey published in November by the Pew Center, 69 percent of adults in Latin America identified as Catholic.
“These, and others like them, lived their faith with intensity and enthusiasm, and by their works of mercy they contributed in a variety of ways to improving the Ecuadorian society of their day”.
In 1985, around 94 percent of the population was considered Catholic, now only an 80 percent are.
Ecuador is the first stop in Pope Francis’ visit to the continent of his birth, which is taking place July 5-13.
Just months after becoming pope, Francis attended celebrations of the church’s World Youth Day in Brazil. As a result, the choice of Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay is not happenstance. “But we don’t have statistics or more precise data on this”.
Morello specializes in the “relation between religion and the public sphere”.
The pontiff is credited with helping bring about last December’s diplomatic thaw between the two countries.
“How sad we have to talk about this before the Pope’s arrival”, added the president, whose weekly TV program included a special jingle to celebrate Francis’ arrival.
Since he was elected pope in March 2013, Francis has become an outspoken advocate for the poor and on social and environmental issues. The shift allowed the Vatican’s ambassador to foster dialogue between the government and the opposition past year.
Protest leaders have called for a moratorium during the papal visit out of deference to Francis.
Francis is expected to make particular references to these communities.
But the enthusiastic reception masks challenges facing the church.
The Argentine-born pontiff will also be in his element, speaking his native Spanish and evangelizing among people he knows well. In Paraguay, a full 89% of residents identify themselves as Roman Catholic, and attendance at Mass is particularly high.
(AP Photo/Juan Karita). A police officer looks over the city of La Paz, Bolivia during a rehearsal for Pope Francis’ visit, Saturday, July 4, 2015. He will move then to Santa Cruz, in Bolivia’s lowlands. The decrease is due to the evangelical churches that have attracted part of the followers, many of whom are indigenous people who are exhausted of being ignored by the Catholics.