Francis used the phrase “Jallalla Bolivia” at the close of his July 8 speech of greeting to Bolivians at the airport of La Paz, the nation's administrative capital. In his address, the Pope noted the country’s rich cultural and ethnic diversity – it has 36 official languages beside Spanish, the largest of which is Quechua.
He said he comes as a pilgrim to renew the country’s faith, and he also encouraged further social, economic, and political development.
“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,” he proclaimed.
He landed at the La Paz airport – the highest in the world at 11,975 feet – at 4:15 p.m. local time, and was greeted by Bolivian president Evo Morales. His two-day visit to the country is the second stage in his July 5-15 South American tour. Prior to Bolivia, Pope Francis spent three days in Ecuador, and will move on to Paraguay on Friday afternoon.
Due to the especially high altitude of La Paz, Francis will only spend a few hours there before transferring to Santa Cruz de la Sierra, where he will spend the remainder of his time in Bolivia.
In his address, Pope Francis praised Bolivia for its “singular beauty,” which he said can be seen in “ ts altiplano and valleys, its Amazon region, its deserts and the incomparable lakes.”
He said Bolivia is a land particularly blessed by its people, who constitute “a great cultural and ethnic variety,” including both ancient aboriginal peoples as well as newer native populations. Such diversity, he said, is an enrichment and a constant call for respect and dialogue.
Francis said the first proclamation of the Gospel in the country “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.”
“Bolivia is making important steps towards including broad sectors in the country's economic, social and political life,” he noted, praising the nation's constitution for recognizing the rights not only of individuals, but also of minorities and the environment.
“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,” he said.
Pope Francis cautioned that “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.”
He therefore called for both institutional transparency and the promotion of education in order to foster social unity.
Evangelization is a theme the Pope said he plans to touch on during the visit, and stressed that Bolivia’s bishops must have a prophetic voice which “speaks to society in the name of the Church, our Mother, from her preferential, evangelical option for the poor.”
“We cannot believe in God the Father without seeing a brother or sister in every person, and we cannot follow Jesus without giving our lives for those for whom he died on the cross,” he said.
Francis also drew attention to the family and the youth, saying that “in an age when basic values are often neglected or distorted, the family merits special attention on the part of those responsible for the common good, since it is the basic cell of society. Families foster the solid bonds of unity on which human coexistence is based, and, through the bearing and education of children, they ensure the renewal of society.”
Referring to young people as “the promise of the future,” the Pope said that helping them to embrace their dreams and lofty ideals is a guarantee for the future of a society.
He also emphasized the importance of caring for the elderly, and noted that Bolivia’s constitution already fosters a “culture of remembrance” capable of ensuring them not only quality of life in their final years, but also affection.
Pope Francis closed his speech saying that he is happy to be in a country “which calls itself pacifist, a country which promotes both the culture of peace and the right to peace.”