Pope Francis has ended his first full day in Ecuador with a visit to the cathedral in the capital Quito, where thousands of people braved a deluge of rain to hear him speak.

Inside Story Americas - Pope Francis: A symbol of change?

Francis returned to the Vatican ambassador's residence in Quito on Monday night and later re-emerged briefly to pray with those gathered, before retiring for the night.

The pope left a bouquet of white roses at the feet of a statue of the Virgin Mary, placed a rosary on its hand and briefly prayed silently.

He then went out on the steps to address a crowd, but instead of giving the short speech that he had prepared, Francis offered a brief blessing for the "noble Ecuadorean people."

Earlier, more than half a million people braved the stifling heat to take part in the pope's open-air mass in Guayaquil, where he called for stronger family values and solidarity with the poor.

Family values

Pope Francis dedicated his first major address to the family, which the Catholic Church considers the pillar of society but which - in Pope Francis' view - is suffering from the ills of modern times.

"Miracles are always performed every day inside a family out of love, but sometimes that love and patience runs out," Francis said.

The pope has taken a more liberal stance on divorce and on homosexuality but remains opposed to same sex marriage, which is being legalised in many North and South American countries.

Less than a month ago, Francis issued a bitter critique of capitalism in an Encyclica that warned that environmental degradation and climate change was in danger of destroying our planet

After Ecuador, the pope will visit Bolivia and Paraguay on a tour encompassing three of the poorest and smallest countries in South America. 

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies