(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis heads to the rough, crime-ridden neighborhood of Ecatepec - part of Mexico City’s suburbs - to celebrate Mass with people “on the periphery” on Sunday. The day will be in stark contrast to Saturday, when the Pope met Mexican government and civic authorities at the National Palace and later, bishops, at the grandiose Cathedral of the Assumption, and celebrated Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Our correspondent Veronica Scarisbrick, is in Mexico with the Pope. She takes a look at Ecatepec, where Pope Francis celebrates an outdoor Mass Sunday:
Listen to Veronica Scarisbrick’s report, "Where people fear to tread" :
At the time of the Aztec Empire, ‘Ecatepec de Morelos’ was an alternative name to ‘Quetzalcoatl’ or the God of the moon. It comes from the Nahunta language and means "windy hill".
Situated northeast of Mexico City, it’s still on a windy hill but it no longer bears the majesty it held at the time of the Aztecs.
It’s now an ugly sprawl of a shanty town littered with rubbish in one of Mexico’s ‘barrio bravo’. An expression meaning a lawless neighbourhood where organized crime, pollution and poverty reign and where most people fear to tread.
But not Pope Francis. This is exactly the kind of place he loves to visit, in a special way during this Year of Mercy. Part of the ‘centuriòn de la pobreza’, a poverty belt surrounding Mexico City,the neighborhood lies in stark contrast to the glamour of downtown Mexico City where those ‘Ecapatans’ who have a job commute to.
Pope Francis has done his homework; he has priests on the ground and knows what goes on here. He knows how the once clear canal that flows through the area, the ‘Rio de los Remedios’ has a fetid aura and has become a dumping place for corpses. In 2014 alone drainage work uncovered hundreds of human bones and the remains of five men and sixteen young women. For women are targeted in a special way, raped or forced into prostitution. And when they don’t consent, they’re disfigured with acid or become part of the army of ‘desaparecidas’ amid the indifference of the police.
But it has to be said: with the support of their mothers who make it their mission in life to find out the truth about their daughters. The only institution people can rely on here is the family .
As for the boys, they’re recruited by the drug lords at a young age and by the time they turn eighteen become ‘pozoleros:’ those who hide away the corpses, or ‘ sicarios:’ assassins.
Ecatapec is not a place for the soft-hearted but it’s the site Pope Francis has chosen to celebrate Holy Mass on the second day of his apostolic journey to Mexico.