(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is set to arrive in Mexico on Friday, the third Pope to visit the country. Vatican Radio’s Veronica Scarisbrick is awaiting the Pope in Mexico. She sends us this report:
When Pope Francis sets foot on Mexican soil, it will be a moment of great ‘alegria’ or joy for the Mexican people. And the bells of the Cathedral in Mexico City will be rung by 800 volunteers for two hours.
I’m not sure if you ever get used to papal visits but Mexicans certainly have had their fair share of them, seven with that of Francis. But while he may be the third pope to visit after Saint John Paul II, who came here five times in the course of his pontificate, and Benedict XVI, now Pope Emeritus who came in 2012, for Mexicans he’s a pope with a difference.
To start with he’s a ‘Latino’ like them, speaks the same language… although, as I discovered, four million Mexicans have yet to learn Spanish, for in some areas they still speak indigenous languages. No doubt Pope Francis will give some of those languages a try. Mayan ones by the unpronounceable names, perhaps – his way of getting closer to the people.
And then, well, there’s something very deep he shares with the people. And not just Catholics who make up roughly 84 per cent of the population. It’s the devotion to ‘Our Lady of Guadalupe,’ spiritual heart of the nation. On Friday afternoon he’ll celebrate Holy Mass in the Basilica of the Shrine there.
Pope Francis is coming to walk through the peripheries with the people of this nation, which has the second largest Catholic population in the world. To start with he’ll be spending two days in Mexico City where he’s elected the Apostolic Nunciature as his home for the next five nights.
As for the places, well Francis has made some very personal choices: that’s to travel where no Pope has ever been before. This means the southern state of Chiapas, with its majority indigenous population; the western diocese of Morelia, hotspot of the drug cartels; and his final stop, Ciudad Juarez, along the border with the United States, where he’ll celebrate Holy Mass on the heavily guarded Mexican-US border, the largest economic divide in the world .
Naturally there will be more intimate moments, for example when he visits a hospital for children who are terminally ill. And more official moments, for example at the ‘Palacio Nacional’ where on Friday morning he becomes the first Pope to be invited to the seat of the nation’s federal executive where President Enrique Pena Nieto has his office.
Although Pope Francis has said on more than one occasion that he’s not coming to Mexico to solve problems but rather to draw inspiration from the faith of the Guadalupe people, it will be difficult for him to avoid some of the nation’s key issues in his scheduled 15 speeches – questions that centre around economic justice, immigration and the rights of indigenous people in what is Latin America’s second largest economy where, for most, prosperity remains a dream; and where there is stupefying violence.
No surprise then that the 'Milenio'daily features an eloquent cartoon with the Pope being warmly welcomed at the airport as he steps out on to a pool of blood instead of a red carpet.