Top Story — Pope Francis held mass in the Ecuadorian port city of Guayaquil on Monday, drawing more than half a million people from across the country.
The pontiff arrived in Ecuador on Sunday, the first stop of a regional tour that will also bring him to Bolivia and Paraguay. His sermon on Monday emphasized family, a major theme of his tenure as pope as well as a topic linked to controversy. His calls for families and the Catholic Church to embrace gays, as well as those who have been divorced outside of the church, have driven a wedge between the liberal and conservative bishops, according to The Associated Press.
A Vatican official estimated that at least 550,000 attended the Mass, held in a park in the outskirts of Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city, the AP reported. One woman told reporters she had traveled with her sister from across the country to see Francis’ homily. Others said they camped out overnight in the park.
During the remainder of his trip, Francis, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Argentina, is expected to emphasize themes of protecting the poor and the environment. Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay are among the poorest countries in the region, and all have faced major environmental challenges and controversies.
Headlines from the Western Hemisphere
- A Mexican Navy helicopter killed six people near the U.S.-Mexico border on Monday in a shootout with suspected drug cartel members, according to The Washington Post.
- Mexican teachers opposed to the country’s new program for teacher testing attacked exam-takers at testing sites, forcefully cutting off their hair, according to an AP report.
- Two Central American migrants died and more than a dozen more were injured in a truck accident in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca.
- The U.S. government will not immediately nominate an ambassador to Cuba despite the scheduled July 20 opening of its Havana embassy, but will rather name Jeffrey DeLaurentis — current head of the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba — as the new embassy’s charge d’affaires.
- Referencing the recent Greek anti-austerity referendum, Puerto Rican governor Alejandro García Padilla warned on Monday that the island could “become the next Greece” if serious action is not taken to ameliorate its financial crisis.
- While homicide rates in El Salvador are among the highest in the world, analysts are attempting to find out how small number of towns in the country’s Chalatenango region managed to go a year without recording any murders.
- A former police chief in Costa Rica accused of illegally detaining three U.S. expats over an alleged land dispute has been placed under a series of restrictions to keep him from interfering with the investigation.
- Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro recalled the country’s ambassador to Guyana on Monday amid mounting tensions over a recent discovery of oil reserves off the coast of both countries that rekindled a century-old border dispute.
- Cash-strapped Venezuela has agreed to let Uruguay settle an energy debt worth $400 million at a 35 percent discount, for $262 million, Uruguay President Tabaré Vazquez announced on Monday.
- The approval rating for Chilean President Michelle Bachelet hit a record low of 27 percent in June — her lowest approval rating in either of her two administrations, according to a poll released on Monday by GfK Adimark.