Pope Francis is praising Paraguay's women as the "most glorious women of America" because of how they helped rebuild the country after a devastating regional war in the 1860s that wiped out more than half the population, most of it male.
Francis dedicated his homily Saturday at the Virgin of Caacupe shrine to Mary, mother of Jesus, and all the wives and mothers of Paraguay "who at great cost and sacrifice were able to lift up a country defeated, devastated and laid low by war."
As an archbishop in Argentina and as pope, Francis frequently has praised the strength of Paraguay's women, saying they should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their fortitude and faith.
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Interrupted by applause, he said Saturday: "You are keepers of the memory, the lifeblood of those who rebuilt the life, faith and dignity of your people." He added: "Then and now, you found the strength not to let this land lose its bearings. God bless your perseverance. God bless and encourage your faith. God bless the women of Paraguay, the most glorious women of America."
Paraguay's 6.6 million people include 110,000 indigenous people, by official count, divided among 20 ethnicities. They are disproportionately poor, having been marginalized by deforestation to clear land for ranching and soy production.