The Pope Mexico visit started on Friday and is Benedict XVI’s first trip to Latin America with a warm greeting from President Felipe Calderón and thousands of Catholics from all over the country who waved flags, shouted and cheered at the mere sound of his approach.
Addressing a crowd that had waited for hours in the sun, the Pope said he has come “as a pilgrim of faith, hope and love.”
“With this brief visit,” he said, “I wish to greet all Mexicans and to include all the people of Latin America, represented here by many bishops.”
The Pope is expected to speak at greater length at an outdoor Mass on Sunday in Guanajuato, but even before he touched ground, he addressed the main issue on the minds of Mexican Catholics, and he tackled the thorny topic of government in Cuba, where he will head Monday for the second and final leg of his journey.
For his audience in Mexico, where Catholics are distraught over the deaths 50,000 people since the government’s war against drug cartels began in late 2006, Pope Benedict emphasized that Mexico´s violence is caused by greed. The Church, he told reporters on the Papal plane, has a responsibility to guide young people away from that false promise, “to educate the conscience, teach moral responsibility and strip off the mask, the idolatry of money that enslaves mankind.”
Pope Benedict XVI also said on the plane that “Marxist ideology as it was conceived no longer responds to reality,” and he urged Cubans to “find new models, with patience, and in a constructive way.”
It remains to be seen how far he will go in criticizing the Cuban government for its limits on human rights, and the Mexican government for its violent drug war, but within minutes of his arrival here, it was clear that the clergy and faithful in both countries, he is likely to receive a warm welcome.
Here at the airport in Silao, between Guanajuato and Leon, a crowd of thousands filled outdoor bleachers while the papal route was swarmed with well-wishers hours before the Pope’s plane landed. When it touched down around 4:15 p.m. local time, the crowd erupted with cheers and shouts of “Benedicto.”
It was clear then that the Pope visit had chosen friendly territory.