(Vatican Radio) On Sunday, Pope Francis celebrated Holy Mass for the First Sunday of Lent in the Mexico City suburb of Ecatepec, warning inhabitants of one of Mexico's most dangerous neighborhoods not to dialogue with the devil. Veronica Scarisbrick is in Mexico with the Pope, and sends us this report.
Listen to the report:
Stunning, gaudy flowered carpets with bold geometrical Aztec designs and an altar covered by an empty white arch for the Holy Mass of Pope Francis in Ecatepec. All in the middle of nowhere: a field bulldozed down for the occasion, which can hold up to 400,000 people.
And close to the altar the image of the Mother of all Mexicans, Our Lady of Guadalupe decorated with white roses. And when he arrived, Pope Francis incensed the image framed by the rays of the sun.
White roses take on a symbolic meaning here as they are linked to the Apparitions of the ‘Morenita’ – as she’s known here – to Juan Diego in the 16th century. That explains, by the way, why Saint Juan Diego is the Patron Saint of florists.
And all the while the sun shone over the forgotten people of ‘Ecatepec’.
Not forgotten though by Pope Francis. He elected them as his chosen people on one of his five days in the nation and for his Holy Mass on this first Sunday of Lent.
I say forgotten because they are those who live in the peripheries north east of Mexico City, one of Mexico’s ‘barrio bravos’ -- an expression meaning a lawless neighbourhood where organized crime, pollution and poverty reign...
Significantly, the responsorial psalm was sung by a woman here in Ecatepec, a place where women are targeted in a special way, beautifully sung.
And in his homily Pope Francis spoke of a ‘society of the few, for the few’ and highlighted how Lent was a time to unmask three great temptations that wear down and fracture the image God wanted from us. Wealth: so the seizing hold of goods that are for all; vanity: so the relentless exclusion of those ‘who are not like me’; and pride: so putting oneself on a higher level than one truly is.
And to the people of the lawless neighbourhood of Ecatepec, speaking off the cuff Pope Francis said, “You don’t dialogue with the devil.”
The crowds listened in awe, the chill that had got into their bones during the night (many had slept here) seemed to dispel.
Francis had warmed the hearts of these forgotten people here in the middle of nowhere.