Pope puts family first at outdoor Mass in steamy Guayaquil

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Thousands Gather in Ecuador Celebrating Mass With Pope Francis

GUAYAQUIL, Ecuador (AP) — Pope Francis received a hero's welcome in Ecuador's biggest city Monday as he celebrated the first public Mass of his South American tour, telling hundreds of thousands of faithful their families are the bedrock of society but need to be supported better and strengthened.

In his homily, Francis praised families as the nucleus of society, calling them "the nearest hospital, the first school for the young, the best home for the elderly." He said miracles are performed every day inside a family out of love, but sometimes the love and happiness run out.

"How many women, sad and lonely, wonder when love left, when it slipped away from their lives?" he asked. "How many elderly people feel left out of family celebrations, cast aside and longing each day for a little love?"

See photos of the pope's visit to South America:

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Pope Francis' visit to South America
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Pope puts family first at outdoor Mass in steamy Guayaquil
Pope Francis waves as he boards the plane back to Rome, in Asuncion, Paraguay, Sunday, July 12, 2015. Pope Francis departed after a week long trip to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. (AP Photo/Cesar Olmedo)
Pope Francis leaves aboard the popemobile after a meeting with the young in Asuncion, Paraguay, Sunday, July 12, 2015. The Pope addressed tens of thousands of young people waiting for him at a venue along the banks of the Paraguay River on one of the last events of his visit. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
People pray and sing before Pope Francis arrives to a meeting with the young in Asuncion, Paraguay, Sunday, July 12, 2015. Pope Francis addressed hundreds of thousands of young people at a venue along the banks of the Paraguay River in the final event of his three-country tour in South America.(AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Pope Francis leaves aboard the popemobile after a meeting with the young in Asuncion, Paraguay, Sunday, July 12, 2015. The Pope addressed tens of thousands of young people waiting for him at a venue along the banks of the Paraguay River. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Pope Francis arrives aboard the popemobile to a meeting with the young in Asuncion, Paraguay, Sunday, July 12, 2015. The Pope addressed tens of thousands of young people waiting for him at a venue along the banks of the Paraguay River. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Pope Francis holds on to his skull cap during mass in Asuncion, Paraguay, Sunday, July 12, 2015. Hundreds of thousands have gathered on a huge swampy field called Nu Guazu inside a military base to attend the mass. At this very spot, Pope John Paull II in 1988 canonized Paraguay's first saint, Roque Gonzalez de Santa Cruz, a Jesuit priest that was a missionary to the Guarani people. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Pope Francis celebrates mass at the Nu Guazu field in Asuncion, Paraguay, Sunday, July 12, 2015. The stage for the Mass was a mosaic made out of thousands of ears of corn, coconuts, squash gourds and many, many dried beans. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)
Pope Francis waves as he rides in the popemobile through the Ecuadorean capital, Quito, on July 7, 2015. Pope Francis addressed 900,000 faithful who braved the cold and rain to hear him at an outdoor mass in Quito's Bicentennial Park. 'Fight for inclusion at all levels,' the pontiff said, pleading for 'dialogue' on the third day of a South American tour that will also take him to Bolivia and Paraguay. AFP PHOTO / JUAN CEVALLOS (Photo credit should read JUAN CEVALLOS/AFP/Getty Images)
Otavalenas Indians holding posters featuring Pope Francis arrive at Bicentennial Park to attend a Mass celebrated by the pontiff, in Quito, Ecuador, Tuesday, July 7, 2015. The pope's final Mass in Ecuador featured readings in Quichua, the native language most spoken in Ecuador. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
In this pool photo taken on July 7, 2015 and made available on Wednesday, July 8, 2015 Pope Francis, center, back to the camera, meets with bishops from Ecuador in Quito, Ecuador. Francis told those gathered for the Mass that in a world divide by wars, violence and individualism, Catholics should be "builders of unity," bringing together hopes and ideals of their people. (L'Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP)
An elderly woman holds a posy of orange and pink flowers as she waits for the arrival of Pope Francis outside the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Presentation of El Quinche, in El Quinche, Ecuador, Wednesday, July 8, 2015. Francis wraps up the first leg of a three-nation South American pilgrimage Wednesday. Next stop on the pope’s South American tour is La Paz, Bolivia, where he will be welcomed by President Evo Morales. (AP Photo/Ana Buitron)
Faithful take pictures as others throw balloons from balconies as Pope Francis departs from the San Francisco Church aboard the popemobile, in Quito, Ecuador, Tuesday, July 7, 2015. On his final full day in Quito Pope Francis pressed his case for a new economic and environmental world order saying the goods of the Earth are meant for everyone and must not be exploited by the wealthy few for short-term profit at the expense of the poor.(AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
Pope Francis blesses the faithful as he arrives to San Francisco Square aboard the popemobile in Quito, Ecuador, Tuesday, July 7, 2015. On his final full day in Quito Pope Francis pressed his case for a new economic and environmental world order saying the goods of the Earth are meant for everyone and must not be exploited by the wealthy few for short-term profit at the expense of the poor. (AP Photo/Ana Buitron)
Nuns arrive at Independence square, invited to attend the meeting of Pope Francis and Ecuador's President Rafael Correa in Quito, Ecuador, Monday, July 6, 2015. After a Mass in the port city of Guayaquil where hundreds of thousands listened to Pope Francis while standing in the hot sun, he will return to the Capital of Quito. Francis is making his first visit as pope to his Spanish-speaking neighborhood. He'll travel to three South American nations, Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. (AP Photo/Ana Buitron)
A street vendor sells a crucifix with the image of Pope Francis, at the Samanes Park where the Pope will give a mass in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Sunday, July 5, 2015. Francis is making his first visit as pope to his Spanish-speaking neighborhood. He'll travel to three South American nations, Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay, which are beset by problems that concern him deeply, income inequality and environmental degradation. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
People raise their hands as Pope Francis blesses them at the end of Mass held in Bicentennial Park in Quito, Ecuador, Tuesday, July 7, 2015. Pope Francis told faithful in Ecuador that being model Catholics is the best form of evangelization. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
Pope Francis waves as he rides in the popemobile through the Ecuadorean capital, Quito, on July 7, 2015. Pope Francis addressed 900,000 faithful who braved the cold and rain to hear him at an outdoor mass in Quito's Bicentennial Park. 'Fight for inclusion at all levels,' the pontiff said, pleading for 'dialogue' on the third day of a South American tour that will also take him to Bolivia and Paraguay. AFP PHOTO / JUAN CEVALLOS (Photo credit should read JUAN CEVALLOS/AFP/Getty Images)
Pilgrims hold up their hands to be blessed by Pope Francis during a Mass at the Samanes Park in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Monday, July 6, 2015. Latin America's first pope arrived in this port city on Monday for the first big event of a three-nation tour that includes Paraguay and Bolivia. Hundreds of thousands listened to the pope on the packed dirt park while standing in the hot sun. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
Faithful wait for Pope Francis at the Marian National Shrine of 'El Quinche' in the outskirts of Quito on July 8, 2015. Pope Francis, the first Latin American pontiff, heads Wednesday to Bolivia on the second leg of a three-nation tour of the continent's poorest countries, where he has been acclaimed by huge crowds. Francis will arrive in the Andean state from Ecuador, where he will wrap up his stay with a visit to a sanctuary of the Virgin of El Quinche outside the capital Quito. AFP PHOTO/JUAN CEVALLOS (Photo credit should read JUAN CEVALLOS/AFP/Getty Images)
Policemen are deployed waiting for Pope Francis at the Nursing Home of the Missionaries of Charity in Tumbaco, Ecuador on July 8, 2015. Pope Francis, the first Latin American pontiff, heads Wednesday to Bolivia on the second leg of a three-nation tour of the continent's poorest countries, where he has been acclaimed by huge crowds. Francis will arrive in the Andean state from Ecuador, where he will wrap up his stay with a visit to a sanctuary of the Virgin of El Quinche outside the capital Quito. AFP PHOTO/VLADIMIR RODAS (Photo credit should read VLADIMIR RODAS/AFP/Getty Images)
A girl waits for the arrival of Pope Francis before a meeting with the clergy, religious, and seminarians at the Marian National Shrine of 'El Quinche' in Quito on July 8, 2015. Pope Francis is in Ecuador as part of his first South American trip in two years that will also take him to Bolivia and Paraguay. AFP PHOTO /RODRIGO BUENDIA (Photo credit should read RODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis and a peasant smile during a meeting with political, economic and civil leaders at San Francisco Church in Quito, on July 7, 2015. Pope Francis addressed 900,000 faithful who braved the cold and rain to hear him at an outdoor mass in Quito's Bicentennial Park. 'Fight for inclusion at all levels,' the pontiff said, pleading for 'dialogue' on the third day of a South American tour that will also take him to Bolivia and Paraguay. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)
Nuns embrace at Independence square, while they wait for the Pope's arrival to the government palace in Quito, Ecuador, Monday, July 6, 2015. Pope Francis is making his first visit to his Spanish-speaking neighborhood. He travels to three South American nations, Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. (AP Photo/Ana Buitron)
Faithful await for the arrival of Pope Francis at the church of San Francisco in Quito, Ecuador, on July 7, 2015. Pope Francis warned against the 'temptation' of 'single leaderships' on Tuesday in front of nearly one million people at an outdoor mass in Ecuador's capital, recently rocked by anti-government protests. AFP PHOTO/LUIS ROBAYO (Photo credit should read LUIS ROBAYO/AFP/Getty Images)
Faithful await for the arrival of Pope Francis to San Francisco Church for the meeting with civil society members in Quito, Ecuador, on July 7, 2015. AFP PHOTO / LUIS ROBAYO (Photo credit should read LUIS ROBAYO/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis is seen before celebrating an open-air mass at the Bicentennial Park in Quito, Ecuador, on July 7, 2015. The visit of the Argentine-born pontiff comes amid widespread unrest over the socialist policies of President Rafael Correa --who is expected to attend the mass. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis walks with his pastoral staff to celebrate Mass in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Monday, July 6, 2015. Latin America's first pope arrived in this port city on Monday for the first big event of a three-nation tour where he's set compassion for the weak and respect for the environment as central themes. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Pope Francis greets the crowd as he makes his way to the main altar in the popemobile to celebrate Mass at Samanes Park in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Monday, July 6, 2015. The Pontiff is visiting Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay on the occasion of his Apostolic trip from July 5 to July 12. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Pope Francis waves to the crowd as he rides aboard the Popemobile in the streets of Quito, Ecuador, Sunday, July 5, 2015. Francis is making his first visit as pope to his Spanish-speaking neighborhood. He'll travel to three South American nations, Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay, which are beset by problems that concern him deeply, income inequality and environmental degradation. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
Pope Francis waves as he rides aboard the popemobile after arriving in Samanes Park to celebrate Mass, in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Monday, July 6, 2015. A crowd estimated at 1 million people greeted Francis on the packed dirt of Samanes Park for a late-morning Mass. Many had spent the night and some had walked for miles to reach the park on the city’s northern outskirts. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
A woman holds a rosary and a wooden cross with an image of Pope Francis as she waits for the arrival of the Pontiff in San Francisco square, Quito, Ecuador, Tuesday, July 7, 2015. Francis is scheduled to meet with members of Ecuador's civil society and give and address in San Francisco Church. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
Pope Francis waves to the crowd as he rides aboard the Popemobile in streets of Quito, Ecuador, Sunday, July 5, 2015. Francis is making his first visit as pope to his Spanish-speaking neighborhood. He'll travel to three South American nations, Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay, which are beset by problems that concern him deeply, income inequality and environmental degradation. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
Thousands line the streets as Pope Francis waves to the crowd as he rides aboard the Popemobile in Quito, Ecuador, Sunday, July 5, 2015. Francis is making his first visit as pope to his Spanish-speaking neighborhood. He'll travel to three South American nations, Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay, which are beset by problems that concern him deeply, income inequality and environmental degradation. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
Pope Francis greets several children upon his arrival to the Mariscal Sucre International airport in Quito Sunday July 5, 2015. History's first Latin American pope returns to Spanish-speaking South America for the first time on Sunday to visit Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay.(AP Photo/
Pope Francis waves upon his arrival to the Mariscal Sucre International airport in Quito, Ecuador, Sunday, July 5, 2015. History's first Latin American pope returns to Spanish-speaking South America for the first time on Sunday to visit Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
Pope Francis greets a girl next to Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa (R) upon arrival at the Mariscal Sucre international airport in Quito on July 5, 2015. Pope Francis arrived in Quito Sunday to begin his first South American trip in two years, for an eight-day tour of Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay highlighting the plight of the poor on his home continent. AFP PHOTO / RODRIGO BUENDIA (Photo credit should read RODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis waves to the crowd as he rides aboard the Popemobile in the streets of Quito, Ecuador, Sunday, July 5, 2015. Francis is making his first visit as pope to his Spanish-speaking neighborhood. He'll travel to three South American nations, Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay, which are beset by problems that concern him deeply, income inequality and environmental degradation. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
Pilgrims arrive to the Samanes Park where Pope Francis will give a mass in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Sunday, July 5, 2015. Francis is making his first visit as pope to his Spanish-speaking neighborhood. He'll travel to three South American nations, Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay, which are beset by problems that concern him deeply, income inequality and environmental degradation. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
Pope Francis waves to reporters at Rome's Fiumicino International airport, Sunday, July 5, 2015, as he boards his flight to Quito, Ecuador, where he will start a week-long trip to South America, including Bolivia and Paraguay. Francis is taking his "church for the poor" to three of South America's poorest and most peripheral countries, making a grueling, week-long trip that will showcase the pope at his unpredictable best: speaking his native Spanish on his home turf about issues closest to his heart. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)
Pope Francis alights from the aircraft upon his arrival in Quito on July 5, 2015. The pontiff will make a nine-day apostolic trip in South America and visit Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis disembarks from his plane upon his arrival to the Mariscal Sucre International airport in Quito Sunday July 5, 2015. History's first Latin American pope returns to Spanish-speaking South America for the first time on Sunday to visit Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa, center, chats with Pope Francis upon his arrival to the Mariscal Sucre International airport in Quito Sunday July 5, 2015. History's first Latin American pope returns to Spanish-speaking South America for the first time on Sunday to visit Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. (AP Photo/Fernando llano)
A man kisses Pope Francis's ring as he leaves aboard a small car the Mariscal Sucre international airport in Quito on July 5, 2015. Pope Francis arrived in Quito Sunday to begin his first South American trip in two years, for an eight-day tour of Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay highlighting the plight of the poor on his home continent. AFP PHOTO / RODRIGO BUENDIA (Photo credit should read RODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/Getty Images)
An street seller offers images of Pope Francis for sale in Quito, Ecuador, Sunday, July 5, 2015. Francis is making his first visit as pope to his Spanish-speaking neighborhood. He'll travel to three South American nations, Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay, which are beset by problems that concern him deeply, income inequality and environmental degradation. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
Images of Pope Francis are displayed for sale at the entrance of Samanes Park where he will give a mass in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Sunday, July 5, 2015. Francis is making his first visit as pope to his Spanish-speaking neighborhood. He'll travel to three South American nations, Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay, which are beset by problems that concern him deeply, income inequality and environmental degradation. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
Faithful await for arrival of Pope Francis on a street in Quito, Ecuador, Sunday, July 5, 2015. Francis is making his first visit as pope to his Spanish-speaking neighborhood. He'll travel to three South American nations, Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay, which are beset by problems that concern him deeply, income inequality and environmental degradation. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
Buttons with the image of Pope Francis are displayed for sale at the entrance of Samanes Park where Pope Francis will give a mass in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Sunday, July 5, 2015. Francis is making his first visit as pope to his Spanish-speaking neighborhood. He'll travel to three South American nations, Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay, which are beset by problems that concern him deeply, income inequality and environmental degradation. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
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Firefighters sprayed water from hoses on the crowd to provide relief from a searing sun and high humidity that made the 86 degree Fahrenheit temperature in the Pacific port city of Guayaquil feel at least 10 degrees hotter.

Many pilgrims had spent the night outdoors, and some walked for miles to reach the park on Guayaquil's northern outskirts to catch a glimpse of history's first Latin American pope celebrating Mass on his home turf. They said it was well worth the discomfort.

"I'm tired, I'm hungry, I haven't slept, but I'm also full of emotion and joy in my heart," said Vicente Huilcatoma, a former police officer who walked 25 miles (40 kilometers) to reach Samanes Park.

The Vatican originally estimated more than 1 million people would turn out for the Mass, and government organizers put the crowd at above that figure in the hour before the service began. But Gabriel Almeida, the government spokesman at the scene, rolled back the estimate to about 550,000 after officials viewed aerial images of the area.

Across the park, flags from Ecuador and more than a half dozen other countries waved above the enormous sea of people, who were divided into quadrants that Francis looped around slowly on his popemobile to cheers of "Francisco! Francisco!"

The pope's homily brought Janeth Valencia Bersosa to tears. The primary school teacher came to the Mass with her older sister Pilar from Cuenca, about 125 miles (200 kilometers) away, spending the night in the park and then baking under the heat of the noontime Mass. She said it was worth it.

"Francis has given us back hope in our families, in those we love the most, the nucleus of society," she said. "I wept at each phrase."

Francis has dedicated the first two years of his pontificate to family issues, giving weekly catechism lessons on different aspects of family life and inviting the entire church to study ways to provide better pastoral care for Catholic families facing difficulties today, including people who are divorced, gays and families in "nontraditional" situations.

A preliminary meeting of bishops on these issues ended last year in bitter divisions between liberals and conservatives, particularly over ministering to gays and to Catholics who divorce and remarry outside the church. Church teaching holds that Catholics who enter into a second marriage without having the first one annulled cannot receive Communion.

In his homily Monday, Francis said he hoped the second meeting of bishops on family life, scheduled for October, would come up with "concrete solutions to the many difficult and significant challenges facing families in our time."

"I ask you to pray fervently for this intention, so that Christ can take even what might seem to us impure, scandalous or threatening, and turn it ... into a miracle."

"Families today need miracles!" he added.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Francis wasn't referring to the gay or divorce issue specifically but was making a more general reference that he hoped the bishops would "help the church chart this path of leaving a situation of sin to one of grace."

Upon his arrival in Guayaquil, the pontiff allowed several acolytes on the tarmac to take selfies with him. He then headed to the Shrine of the Divine Mercy, where 2,000 invitees gathered, including young cancer patients, residents of homes for the elderly abandoned by their families and some of Guayaquil's poorest people.

He told those gathered that he would pray for them "and I won't charge you a thing. All I ask, please, is that you pray for me."

After the open-air Mass, Francis had lunch with a group of Jesuits at a nearby high school.

A highlight was his reunion with the Rev. Francisco Cortes, a priest affectionately known as "Padre Paquito," to whom the Argentina-born pope, then the Rev. Jorge Mario Bergoglio, entrusted his seminarians on study trips to Ecuador years ago.

In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Cortes couldn't fathom that Bergoglio remembered him, much less made a point of coming to have lunch.

"I don't know what to ask him," the soon-to-be 91-year-old Cortes said. "I'm really just a Mr. Nobody."

After returning to the capital of Quito, Francis paid a courtesy visit to President Rafael Correa in the presidential palace Monday night. He was to later pray at the main cathedral.

Tuesday brings another big public Mass, this time in Quito, as well as a meeting with the country's bishops, a speech at Ecuador's Catholic University and an evening gathering with civil society groups, including indigenous leaders.

Tens of thousands who lined up outside the Quito park where the Mass was to be held got soaked in a punishing rain and hail storm. People grabbed what they could to protect themselves. They tore vinyl advertising placards off the metal fences surrounding the park, which was the city's international airport until two years ago.

Some just shrugged it off. Although her clothes were soaked and she shivered in the cold of Quito's 9,000-foot altitude, 71-year-old Angelica Naranjo said: "This isn't a sacrifice. It's a demonstration of faith."

Quito security chief Juan Zapata said officials would distribute blankets from stocks kept by civil defense authorities.

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