Address at the Welcome Ceremony
International Airport “El Alto”, La Paz (Bolivia)
8 July 2015
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As I begin my Pastoral Visit, I greet all the people of Bolivia and invoke upon them peace and prosperity. I thank the President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia for his warm and fraternal reception and his kind words of welcome. I also thank the government ministers and the authorities of the state, the armed forces and the national police, for their presence. I greet my brother bishops, the priests, men and women religious, lay faithful, and the whole pilgrim Church in Bolivia, in a spirit of fraternal communion in the Lord. I think in a special way of the sons and daughters of this land who for a variety of reasons are not here, and have had to seek “another land” to shelter them; another place where this earth can allow them to be fruitful and find possibilities in life.
I am pleased to be here, in this country of singular beauty, blessed by God in its diverse regions: its altiplano and valleys, its Amazon region, its deserts and the incomparable lakes. The preamble of your Constitution gives poetic expression to this natural beauty: “In ancient times the mountains arose, rivers changed course and lakes were formed. Our Amazonia, our wetlands and our highlands, and our plains and valleys were decked with greenery and flowers”. It makes me realize once again that “rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise” (Laudato Si’, 12). But above all, Bolivia is a land blessed in its people. It is home to a great cultural and ethnic variety, which is at once a great source of enrichment and a constant summons to mutual respect and dialogue. There are the ancient aboriginal peoples and the more recent native peoples. The Spanish language brought to this land now happily exists with thirty-six native languages, which come together – like the red and yellow in the national flowers of Kantuta and Patujú – to create beauty and unity in diversity. In this land and people the proclamation of the Gospel took deep root, and through the years it has continued to shed its light upon society, contributing to the development of the nation and shaping its culture.
As a guest and a pilgrim, I have come to confirm the faith of those who believe in the Risen Christ, so that, during our pilgrimage on earth, we believers may be witnesses of his love, leaven for a better world and co-operators in the building of a more just and fraternal society.
Bolivia is making important steps towards including broad sectors in the country’s economic, social and political life. Your constitution recognizes the rights of individuals, minorities and the natural environment, and provides for institutions to promote them. To achieve these goals a spirit of civic cooperation and dialogue is required, as well as the participation of individuals and social groups in issues of interest to everyone. The integral advancement of a nation demands an ever greater appreciation of values by individuals and their growing convergence with regard to common ideals to which all can work together, no one being excluded or overlooked. A growth which is merely material will always run the risk of creating new divisions, of the wealth of some being built on the poverty of others. Hence, in addition to institutional transparency, social unity requires efforts to promote the education of citizens.
Mr President, dear brothers and sisters, I thank you for your presence. In these days we can look forward to moments of encounter, dialogue and the celebration of faith. I am pleased and happy to be here, in a country which calls itself pacifist, a peaceful land, a country which promotes the culture of peace and the right to peace.
I entrust this visit to the protection of the Blessed Virgin of Copacabana, Queen of Bolivia, and I ask her to protect all her children. Thank you. May the Lord bless you! Jallalla Bolivia.
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