By Hugo Olazar
About a million worshippers have packed the Paraguayan town of Caacupe to see Pope Francis, who is wrapping up a three-country South America tour in which he has repeatedly spoken up for the poor.
The pope, 78, on Saturday paid special tribute to Paraguay's women, largely left widowed and orphaned during the War of the Triple Alliance from 1865 to 1870, which nearly decimated the male population.
"I would like especially to mention you, the women, 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," Francis said.
"You are keepers of the memory, the lifeblood of those who rebuilt the life, faith and dignity of your people."
The huge crowd was delighted to hear the pope deliver the Lord's Prayer in Guarani, the language of the country's indigenous people, spoken by 80 percent of the population.
Caacupe has become a place of international pilgrimage thanks to the presence of a small wooden statue of the Virgin Mary that has been credited with various miracles.
On the esplanade in front of the Caacupe basilica, crowds played guitar, shook maracas and sipped gourds of mate - the herbal drink beloved by many in the region.
Francis, who is from Argentina, is not visiting his home country on this trip. He has not returned to Argentina since his election as pope in March 2013, but could travel there on an official visit in 2016.
After visiting Ecuador and Bolivia, Francis arrived Friday in Paraguay, where 90 percent of the population is Catholic, to begin the final leg of his eight-day tour.
Francis begins his trip back to the Vatican on Sunday.