(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Tuesday begins the 4th day of his Apostolic Journey to Mexico with a trip to one of the country's most drug-ridden states. Veronica Scarisbrick is with the Holy Father and sent us this report, entitled "Horror and Hope in Michoacán".
Listen to the report:
Pope Francis on Tuesday, 16 February, travels to Morelia, capital of Michoacán, the Mexican state most identified with the drug trade. A place where there are performances of stupefying violence. Although I’ve been told there are worse places still in terms of the drug scene across Mexico.
Francis who comes to Mexico as ‘messenger of peace’ has called drugs ‘messengers of death’. The scenario related to drugs here is complex and multi- faceted. To set a strategy that might break the organized crime model is not an easy task, the law is one thing and implementation is another. Also government anti-corruption cartels are not sufficiently powerful to counter the power of narco billions.
It's not that the problem has been ignored, the military and federal police have been called in on various occasions and in turn accused of the same crimes they were out to crush. And the result was so weak that the local communities decided to set up their own militias, the vigilantes' with the result that you have lemon and avocado pickers turned gunmen.
There are contradictions as well. Traditional crime groups are often deeply tied to religion. Furthermore they offer benefits people find hard to refuse and are often obliged to accept.
Among the consequences of this situation are economic and social disintegration and a connection with the escalating number of ‘desaparecidos’ in the area.
Overall in Mexico there are more than 20.000 people who have disappeared in ten years. Although UN sources have stepped up that number to over 26.000. But these numbers don’t relate exclusively to Michoacán.
But significantly it’s in the capital of Michoacán, Morelia that Pope Francis has chosen to meet with young people in an effort to bring a much needed message of hope.
He’ll be meeting with them in the afternoon at the stadium ‘José Maria Morelos y Pavòn’. It promises to be a moving moment, one they will treasure. Let’s recall how Pope Francis said in his first speech to the nation. ‘One of Mexico’s greatest treasures is that it has a youthful face”.
It’s in Morelia too that earlier in the day Pope Francis will go to the heart of this stunning colonial city, to the Cathedral in the characteristic pink stone of the area which dominates the city. There he will meet with fourteen deans of Mexican Universities and six leaders of other Christian religions.
But he will start the day by celebrating Holy Mass in the local stadium with priests, men and women religious, consecrated people and seminarians.
All in the presence of the man he created Cardinal a year ago, the Archbishop of Morelia Alberto Suarez Inda.
With the Pope in Mexico, I’m Veronica Scarisbrick.