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Thousands Greet Pope in Guatemala - 2002-07-30

Pope John Paul has arrived in Guatemala City, the second stop on his three-country Americas trip. Hundreds of thousands of faithful in this largely Catholic country came out to welcome him.

After touching down at the La Aurora International airport after a four and a half hour trip from Toronto, the travel-weary Pope was lowered to the tarmac by an elevated platform. Awaiting him were the heads of state of Guatemala, the rest of the Central American countries and Dominican Republic along with church officials. In a short speech, he expressed hope that Guatemalans who long for peace and reconciliation can live with dignity.

For over 12 hours before the Pope's plane touched down slightly before 3 p.m. local time, thousands of Guatemalans had been out on the streets constructing five kilometers of colorful and intricately designed floral carpets from pine needles, flower petals and colored saw dust along the entire route where the Pope would travel.

In the last moments before the pope passed by, the carpet makers erupted in song. Despite the fact that she had been here working since 2 a.m., Amparo de Rios says she was honored to have been a part of the welcome for the Pope on his third visit to this central American country.

She says it is very emotional for her to be here and the Pope's mere presence fills her with peace.

Within moments, the Pope's motorcade appeared to the cheers of the crowd, who waved flags and threw flowers on the "popemobile" as it sped over the flower carpets churning up a cloud of sawdust in its wake.

As soon as it passed, Samuel Alvarado jumped into the street to collect some of the sawdust in a glass bottle.

He says it is a blessing for Catholics like him because the Pope passed by here.

The pope has come here to canonize Brother Pedro, a 17th century missionary who lived and worked in Guatemala. Many people say they hope he also leaves behind some peace in a society racked by violence and poverty.