Vatican Radio is reporting on the historic visit of Pope Francis which got underway on Friday when he landed at Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City at 7:30 p.m. local time. As soon as the papal jet touched down, the crowd began to shout excitedly, “Ya llego! Ya llego!” He arrived! He arrived!
Francis was immediately rushed away, under heavily armed escort, to the residence of the Apostolic Nuncio at the Vatican Embassy, a 12-mile-long journey which found him passing through streets packed with throngs of people. After arriving at the embassy, he briefly addressed the crowds, telling them they “needed to rest”, then leading them in a Hail Mary.
“Look at the Virgin and remember these faces,” he told them before retiring for the night. “The people who love us, those we love, those we do not like, those who do not like us, and are envious of us.”
The following day began with a visit with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto where he addressed members of congress, governors and the civil diplomatic corps.
President Nieto welcomed the pontiff, saying how much his visit meant to the people, then went on to mention the many challenges his country faced. Although he never mentioned the drug violence and drug trafficking that has been savaging his nation, the pope made it a point to mention it.
“Each time we seek the path of privileges and benefits for the few to the detriment of the good of all, sooner or later the life of society becomes a fertile soil for corruption, drug trade, exclusion of different cultures, violence and also human trafficking, kidnapping and death, bringing suffering and slowing down development,” the pope said.
While calling himself a “missionary of mercy and peace,” Francis urged the leaders to guarantee access to basic necessities for all citizens, such as affordable housing, dignified jobs, food security and safety.
He went on to celebrate Mass at the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City, the most visited Catholic pilgrimage site in the world and one of particular importance to the Latin American people.
During a moment of private prayer before the framed tilma of St. Juan Diego, which bears the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the pope prayed for the people of Mexico.
“ . . . [H]e asked the Mother of God to bless this people and to help this people to have hope [for] a better future,” said Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi. “The problems are very hard, but the Pope encourages them not to be desperate, to try to build a world in which mutual understanding, solidarity, can really confront the situation.”
Later, during his homily, he told the congregation that the Madonna of Guadalupe “wished to come to the inhabitants of these American lands in the person of the Indian Saint Juan Diego”, and that “she has and continues to accompany the development of this blessed Mexican land.”
Through this miraculous visit, which was made to a poor peasant, the Pope said that “God roused the hope of the little ones, of the suffering, of those displaced or rejected, of all who feel they have no worthy place in these lands.”
The Pope also visited with Mexican bishops on Saturday at the Metropolitan Cathedral where he spoke off-the-cuff about infighting among the prelates.
“If you have to fight, fight. If you have to tell each other off, say them. But as men, face to face,” he said. “But as men of God, pray together, … and if you crossed the line, ask for forgiveness. But be sure to maintain the unity of the episcopate.”
On Sunday, Francis made his way through one of the most lawless neighborhoods in Mexico City, Ecatepec. It was here that he chose to celebrate Mass for an enormous crowd of the faithful and too the opportunity to warn them against allowing the father of lies to ruin the dream of our heavenly Father.
“Lent is a time of conversion, of daily experiencing in our lives of how this dream is continually threatened by the father of lies, by the one who tries to separate us, making a divided and fractious society,” he said. “A society of the few, and for the few. How often we experience in our own lives, or in our own families, among our friends or neighbors, the pain which arises when the dignity we carry within is not recognized . . . . Lent is a time for reconsidering our feelings, for letting our eyes be opened to the frequent injustices which stand in direct opposition to the dream and the plan of God. . .”
Fr. Lombardi said, “The people were listening to the Pope very willingly, they had waited for the Pope in a very cool night and morning, but they were very happy to meet the Pope. I think this Mass has been the most massive Mass that we have experienced. In this anonymous and terrific town, the message of love, of solidarity, of being together in love and hope is something very fundamental. We can see how the message of the gospel is needed to be human in this world.”
The pope heads to San Cristobal de Las Casas today where he will celebrate Mass at the city’s sports center with the indigenous community from Chiapas will meet with young people in Jose Maria Morelos Pavon Stadium later in the afternoon. On Wednesday he heads for Ciudad Juarez where he will visit a prison, meet with workers, and celebrate mass at the fairgrounds. His apostolic journey to Mexico will end at 7:15 p.m. that evening when he departs for Rome.
Everywhere he goes, he is followed by enormous crowds in this Catholic nation, which has filled the warm hear of our beloved pontiff with gratitude.
“He feels that these people who come in the street to show him love, joy for his coming, desire of blessing is something that expresses a love that is without interest, without looking for something material,” Fr. Lombardi said. “In this sense, his experience of meeting the people is meeting them in a spiritual way, a joyful way.”
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