January 20, 2018 / 6:34 PM / a year ago

Pope avoids Argentina but visits Buenos Aires in Peru

Pope Francis waves as he visits the district of Buenos Aires in Trujillo, Peru, January 20, 2018. Osservatore Romano/Handout via REUTERS

TRUJILLO, Peru (Reuters) - Pope Francis on Saturday greeted followers in the streets of Buenos Aires - but not in his home country of Argentina.

Instead, he visited a poor neighborhood in northern Peru that shares a name with the Argentine capital.

After celebrating Mass for 200,000 people on the Pacific oceanside, Francis boarded his popemobile and reached out to residents of the 75-year-old neighborhood, which was devastated last year by flooding from an intense El Nino weather phenomenon.

Dressed in the Vatican colors of white and yellow, some of the 30,000 residents of the still-damaged coastal area shouted greetings to Francis from rooftops of half-rebuilt homes and ran behind him in streets still without asphalt.

Latin America’s first pope has yet to return home to Argentina as pontiff despite visiting much of the region since his election nearly five years ago. The Vatican has not said why.

His avoidance of Argentina is unusual: John Paul II frequented Poland, and Benedict XVI started his papacy in his native Germany.

Residents of Peru’s Buenos Aires hope the visit from the pope will spur local authorities to speed up reconstruction work in the area.

Reporting by Reuters TV, additional reporting by Marco Aquino in Lima; Writing by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn

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