ASUNCION – Pope Francis arrived on Friday in Asuncion, capital of Paraguay, where he is to remain through the weekend on the final leg of a Latin American tour that previously took him to Ecuador and Bolivia.
The Alitalia jet, in which the pope flew from Bolivia, landed at 2:48 p.m. at Silvio Pettirossi International Airport.
Here he was received by Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes, who awaited him at the foot of the steps down from the plane under a light rain, and with whom he went to sit on the official platform prepared for the event.
There the pope listened to the Paraguayan national anthem and the pontifical hymn sung in Guarani by a chorus of some 200 children from the city of Luque.
Images were then shown on a giant screen of the 1998 arrival at that airport of John Paul II, until now the only pope to visit this South American country.
After the welcoming ceremony, President Cartes and Pope Francis moved on to the presidential chamber at the airport and had a brief private meeting.
Francis plans to ride in the popemobile the 13 kilometers (8 miles) from the airport to the residence of the papal nuncio, from where hours later he will go to the presidential palace.
There he will again meet Friday with Cartes and greet authorities and politicians, along with members of the diplomatic corps.
The pope’s agenda resumes Saturday with a visit to the Sanctuary of Caacupe some 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Asuncion, where he will celebrate Mass.
On Sunday Pope Francis will visit Bañado Norte, one of the poor neighborhoods of Asuncion on the banks of the Paraguay River, and later will say Mass at Ñu Guasu, the capital’s largest park.