OVER 1,500 delegates representing 150 organisations from over 40 countries have gathered in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz for the second World Meeting of Social and People’s Movements.
Discussions will focus upon the environment and climate change, but also consider issues such as housing, slavery and war.
Bolivian President Evo Morales opened the conference on Tuesday.
“It is the hour of the peoples of the world. It is the hour of social movements. We should discuss the origins of poverty and inequality and combat those institutions,” he said.
“When I see these people, the faces of people, it gives hope.”
Pope Francis, on the second leg of his three-country tour of South America, will deliver a message at the close of the meeting today. He also attended the first such meeting, held at the Vatican in October.
Former coca farmer Mr Morales greeted the Pope on his arrival from neighbouring Ecuador yesterday with a supply of the leaf, which is the raw material of the narcotic cocaine.
The pontiff, who only has one functioning lung, had asked for coca leaves to chew during his visit as the traditional Bolivian antidote to altitude sickness and fatigue.
Speaking at an outdoor mass in the Ecuadorean capital Quito on the final day of his visit on Tuesday, the Pope exhorted the faithful to “fight for social inclusion.”
“There is a need to fight for inclusion of all at all levels, avoiding selfishness and promoting communication and dialogue,” he said.
Luis Infanti, bishop of the diocese of Aysen, Chile, echoed the Pope’s comments at the meeting in Bolivia?.
“The Pope calls on us to become aware in order to break and bring down the structures that enslave us more and more every day,” he said.
Another senior Catholic clergyman, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace president Cardinal Peter Turkson, urged the world to “move forward in a process of change in defence of the Earth and of human dignity.”
“The church desires to join her hands with theirs in these processes” to promote “better conditions for integral development of the excluded as people, families and towns,” he added.