Please find below an English translation of the Pope’s prepared remarks to the inhabitants of Banado Norte: Dear Friends,
I have looked forward to being with you today. I could not come to Paraguay without spending some time with you, here on your land.
We are meeting in this Parish named after the Holy Family, and I confess that as I arrived, everything reminded me of the Holy Family. To see your faces, your children, your elderly, and to hear about your experiences and everything you went through to be here, to have a dignified life and a roof over your heads, to endure the bad weather and the flooding of these last few weeks… All this makes me think of the little family of Bethlehem. Your struggles have not taken away your laughter, your joy and your hope. Struggles which have not lessened your sense of solidarity but if anything, have made it grow. I would like think for a moment about Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem. They were forced to leave home, families and friends. They had to leave all that they had and to go somewhere else, to a place where they knew no one, a place where they had no house or family. That was when that young couple had Jesus. That was how they gave us Jesus. They were alone, in a strange land, just the three of them. Then, all of a sudden, shepherds began to arrive. People just like them who had to leave their homes to find better opportunities for their families. Their lives were affected by harsh weather but by other kinds of hardship too.
When they heard that Jesus had been born, they went to see him. They became neighbors. In an instant, they became a family to Mary and Joseph. The family of Jesus.
That is what happens when Jesus comes into our lives. It is what happens with faith. Faith brings us closer. It makes us neighbors. It draws us closer to the lives of others. Faith awakens our commitment, our solidarity. The birth of Jesus changes our lives. A faith which does not draw us into solidarity is a faith which is dead. It is a faith without Christ, a faith without God, a faith without brothers and sisters. The first to show this solidarity was our Lord, who chose to live in our midst.
I come to you like those shepherds. I want to be your neighbor. I want to bless your faith, your hands and your community. I come to join you in giving thanks, because faith has become hope, and hope in turn kindles love. The faith which Jesus awakens in us is a faith which makes us able to dream of the future, and to work for it here and now. That is why I want to urge you to continue to be missionaries, to keep spreading the faith in these streets and alleys. Be neighbors above all to the young and the elderly. Be a support for young families and all families which are experiencing difficulty. I commend your families to the Holy Family so that its example and its witness may continue to be a light for your path, a encouragement in times of trouble. May the Holy Family always help us to be “shepherds” who can accompany, support and encourage our families.
Let us together pray to them. I ask you to remember to pray for me.