(Vatican Radio) On the last day of his pastoral visit to Mexico, Pope Francis on Wednesday visits inmates at a prison in Ciudad Juarez on the U.S.-Mexico border. Before heading back to Rome Wednesday evening, he will also meet people from the working world and celebrate Mass in the city located just across the border from El Paso. On Tuesday, the Holy Father visited Morelia in central Mexico where he celebrated Mass with religious, consecrated people and seminarians and later was greeted by tens of thousands of young people at the local stadium.
Director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi sj says the Pope has come to Mexico as “a messenger of mercy and of peace.” Even through his gestures and small actions, the Pope “was teaching love and demonstrating love and mercy of God… not only through his words,” adds Fr. Lombardi. In this way, continues the Vatican spokesman, the Pope “has contributed very much to the harmony and reconciliation of a society that has dramatic tensions and problems with violence and internal conflicts and disparities of situations in the society.”
Fr. Federico Lombardi speaks to Veronica Scarisbrick:
In an interview with Vatican Radio’s Veronica Scarisbrick, Fr. Lombardi notes that Pope Francis has made his mark in Mexico “in a very pastoral way, not as a politician, not as a person who comes with easy solutions for problems that are so incredibly difficult. But he demonstrates understanding for the situation, for the people and the temptations that they have: [the] discouragement [they feel] in this situation. And he encourages them, and he witnesses the love of God, and invites [them] to the profound devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe that is in the heart of Mexicans.”
Pope challenges Mexicans to put love, hope into practice
Pope Francis has also been challenging Mexicans to embrace this witness concretely, in their own lives, in their families and in society, Fr. Lombardi affirms: “I think he leaves to the Mexican people a treasure of hope – a horizon of hope for the future.” It was this message that the Pope stressed in a particular way to the young people he has encountered, “because they are the majority of the society and the future is concretely in their hands even if they have difficulties [in finding] their way in this society.”
Fr. Lombardi observes that one of the things that has impressed Pope Francis the most on this trip is “the love of the people [on the streets] for him.” For the Pope, theirs is a gratuitous, freely-given love: “they come to demonstrate spontaneously in the street to demonstrate sincerely that they love the Pope, the Church. That they desire to be a community which hopes [for] a better situation.” Pope Francis, Fr. Lombardi adds, is “grateful for the witness of love that he has received and he has tried to give his contribution to [the Mexican people] to overcome this historical, difficult moment.”
Fr. Lombardi admits that he personally, found two moments of the trip particularly moving: “the silent dialogue between the Pope and the Virgin of Guadalupe” in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the end of Saturday’s Mass in Mexico City. And the moment during Monday’s meeting with families in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, when a severely disabled child in a wheelchair was brought towards the Pope. The episode, Fr. Lombardi remarks, reminded him of the Gospel story “in which the people bring the paralytic to Jesus: the Pope has seen this and then came down from the podium to encounter this child and to bless him…. It was a very [special] moment: the witness of faith of the people bringing this sick young man to the Pope and the love of the Pope” who interrupted the testimonials of families “to go down where he sees this desire of blessing for a person that was in very, very particularly grave sickness.”