ASUNCION • Pope Francis has decried corruption as the "gangrene of a people" while in Paraguay, one of South America's poorest nations and where graft is rampant.
The 78-year-old Pope, who is here on the last stop of a three-nation tour of his home continent, also railed against ideologies and hammered home the central theme of his trip - equality.
Speaking to a crowd of 5,000 last Saturday at a stadium in the capital Asuncion, he drifted away from his scripted remarks, saying "ideologies end badly, they do not work, they do not take into account the people". He noted: "Look what happened with ideologies in the last century... they ended in dictatorships, always."
In a question-and-answer session, he denounced corruption, which plagues several countries in South America. Perhaps to avoid offending his hosts, he stressed it was a recurring problem "among all peoples of the world". As he had done at previous stops, in Ecuador and Bolivia, he called for an end to poverty - also endemic in the region - and lamented today's consumer society.
He said wealth creation should not be "only for the benefit of a few" and must be extended to everyone. He urged political leaders not to "sacrifice human lives on the altar of money and profit".
"In economics, in business and in politics, what counts first and foremost is the human person and the environment in which he or she lives," Pope Francis emphasised.
Earlier in the day, before worshippers at the country's main pilgrimage site, the first pontiff from Latin America praised the sacrifices of Paraguay's "glorious" women during a history marked by war.
He was due to return to the Vatican yesterday, following an open-air mass in Asuncion.
He will be back in Latin America in September, travelling to Cuba before heading to the United States.