VATICAN CITY (AP) – Pope Francis will visit a notoriously violent prison in Bolivia, a flood-prone shanty town in Paraguay and a home for the elderly in Ecuador during his July visit to South America.
The Vatican on Friday released the itinerary for Francis' second visit to his home continent, a three-nation whirlwind tour featuring 22 speeches that will likely focus on some of the key concerns of his pontificate.
He will meet with heads of state and religious leaders of each country, and participate in a world meeting of popular movements in Bolivia.
When Francis met with the grassroots groups last year at the Vatican, he delivered an off-the-cuff, mini-encyclical on the rights of the poor, the injustices of unemployment and the need for environmental protection — issues he'll likely raise again on his home turf.
Francis arrives in Quito, Ecuador, on July 5 and the following day flies to Guayaquil to celebrate Mass and meet with the community of his Jesuit order. He'll meet with students, priests and residents at a home for the elderly in Ecuador before flying to La Paz, Bolivia.
He'll spend only a few hours in Bolivia's high-altitude capital before traveling onto to Santa Cruz in the eastern lowlands on July 8.
One of the highlights of the trip will be his July 10 visit to the Palmasola maximum-security prison outside Santa Cruz, where a battle among inmate gangs in 2013 left 30 people dead. As in many Latin American prisons, inmates largely control the inside of Palmasola, which holds some 3,500 prisoners, more than four in five of them still awaiting trial.
Francis has met with prisoners on most of his foreign trips and recently celebrated Mass for inmates at Rome's main prison. He has denounced the death penalty as "inadmissible" and life terms as a "hidden death penalty."
Francis arrives in Paraguay on the afternoon of July 10 and visits a children's hospital before traveling to the Banado Norte shanty town on the banks of the Rio Paraguay. The area floods each year but the municipal lands still attract the poorest of Bolivians.