(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Holy Mass on Wednesday at Mexico's northern border, and spoke of the thousands of migrants who have died trying to reach the United States.
As Veronica Scarisbrick reports he appealed for governments to open their hearts, if not their borders, to the 'human tragedy that is forced migration' and he implored: `No more death! No more exploitation!'
Ciudad Juarez in northern Mexico would appear to be on the “wrong side of the border”.It’s here that thousands of immigrants, today mostly from Central America, attempt to cross over to ‘El Norte’, on the “right side of the border” fleeing from extreme poverty and violence in search of a better future.
Curious how in this land of contrasts this desolate border rife with unspeakable violence, with its chain link fence (the largest economic divide in the world) for some is a symbol of hope.
It’s here that Pope Francis in the course of his last homily in Mexico during Holy Mass on Wednesday 17th of February highlighted the plight of thousands of migrants who reach here by train or on foot, journeying for hundreds of kilometres across mountains, deserts and inhospitable zones.
Upon his arrival at the venue for the mass Pope Francis had knelt by a giant great black cross planted high by the banks of the ‘Rio Grande’, on the border with the United States. It was a moving moment in this place by the chain link fence where so many have lost their lives attempting to cross over. And the Pope symbolically blessed a pair of worn shoes and a pair of worn sandals placed there for the occasion. And then stood for a moment looking out towards the United States where the crowds pressed against the chain link fence waved from across the river.
And in his homily Francis had powerful words: “No more death! No more exploitation! It’s not too late for change, for a way out, a time to implore the mercy of God. In this Year of Mercy, with you here, I beg for God’s mercy”, Pope Francis insisted, “With you I wish to plead for the gift of tears, the gift of conversion”.
And then he went on to highlight how the human tragedy that is forced migration is a global phenomenon today. This crisis he said: “which can be measured in numbers and statistics, should be measured instead with names, stories, families. They are the brothers and sisters of those expelled by poverty and violence, by drug trafficking and criminal organizations. Being faced with so many legal vacuums, they get caught up in a web that ensnares and always destroys the poorest. Not only do they suffer poverty but they must also endure these forms of violence. Young people are “cannon fodder”, persecuted and threatened when they try to flee the spiral of violence and the hell hole of drugs. And what can we say about all the women who have been killed here”…
On this occasion in Ciudad Juarez Pope Francis also mentioned the commitment of those who work on the front lines, often at the risk of their lives in an effort to support the rights of migrants describing them as prophets of mercy.
It is a time for conversion, Pope Francis insisted, a time for conversion, a time for salvation, a time for mercy.
With Pope Francis in Mexico, I’m Veronica Scarisbrick