ASUNCION, Paraguay — On his final day in South America Pope Francis visited the poorest neighborhood in Paraguay’s capitol, encouraging residents to practice “solidarity,” because without it one’s faith is either hypocritical or dead.
“Jesus didn’t have any problem with lowering, humbling himself unto death for each one of us out of this solidarity among brothers, this love that his Father had for each one of us,” Francis said in off-the-cuff remarks July 12.
“Remember; when a faith doesn’t have solidarity, it’s weak, it’s ill or it’s dead. It’s not the faith of Jesus.”
Faith makes us aware of our commitment and solidarity with others, he said, which is “a human and Christian virtue that many, many, including ourselves, need to understand. A faith which does not draw us into solidarity is a faith which is dead, or which lies.”
The strongest witness their community can give is one of solidarity, Francis said, explaining that the devil will try to cause division, and if that happens “he breaks you and steals your faith. Solidarity among brothers and sisters. This solidarity is the message for the whole city.”
On the final day of his July 5-13 tour of South America Francis stopped to visit the Bañado Norte neighborhood in Paraguay’s capital Asunciòn, where roughly 100,000 of the poorest of the poor live.
Before coming to Paraguay, the Pope visited the nations of Ecuador and Bolivia.
Francis also heard testimonies from two residents, who spoke out against the abuse of human rights, the low economy and poor living conditions in the neighborhood.
Pope Francis told residents that he, like the shepherds, wants to be their neighbor and to bless their faith and communities. He said that the faith which Jesus awakens in us is what allows us to dream about the future, and to work for it even in the present moment.
He encouraged them to be missionaries, and “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.”
Francis concluded his speech by commending each of the residents and their families to the care of the Holy Family, praying that the witness of Jesus, Mary and Joseph would be light for their path and an encouragement in times of difficulty.
“May the Holy Family always help us to be shepherds who can accompany, support and encourage our families,” he said, and asked the residents to keep him in their prayers.