In Mexican Slum, Pope Francis Laments Economic Gap

2/14/2016 New York Times

Reuters/Tony Gentile
Reuters/Tony Gentile

ECATEPEC, Mexico — Pope Francis stepped into the heartland of Mexican inequality on Sunday, presiding over an enormous outdoor Mass in the impoverished outskirts of the capital and urging the joyous crowd not to fall prey to the wealth, vanity and pride that can create “a society of the few, and for the few.”

By coming to Ecatepec, one of the country’s largest, poorest and most violent cities, the Latin American pope placed himself at the center ofMexico’s identity crisis. Nagging economic disparity has left nearly half of the country living in poverty while a mere sliver of society controls the rest — even as drug traffickers terrorize large parts of the nation.

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Francis’s Visit to Mexico Comes as Country Struggles With Many Ills

2/12/2016 New York Times

POPE
© Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk

MEXICO CITY — For more than a century, the Mexican government has treated the Catholic Church with a deep suspicion, if not outright hostility. Battles have literally been fought between church and state, while anticlerical laws stayed on the books until just a couple of decades ago.

But gauging by the Mexican government’s enthusiasm ahead of Pope Francis’ visit, the popular leader’s arrival may do more than offer salvation for the masses. It might also provide a much-needed boost to the government’s flagging credibility — or so it hopes.

To welcome the pope when he arrives on Friday night, the first lady produced a song in his honor. For the first time, the president will welcome a pope in the National Palace. Francis will receive a key to Mexico City, which placed a giant billboard along the airport highway that perhaps most accurately sums up the sentiment: “Pope Francis, Mexico City is your home.”

While Pope John Paul II remains a revered figure in Mexico, having visited the nation five times during his papacy, the new pontiff offers a profile that few Latin American governments can resist: a Spanish speaker beloved by many.

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How the Virgin of Guadalupe embodied Mexican identity and inspired millions, including Pope Francis

2/12/16 Los Angeles Times

Fotos Nuevas Julio 2011

Before his journey to Mexico, Pope Francis had a favor to ask.

Before his first trip as pontiff to a place with more Catholics than any other Spanish-speaking country, where he will surely be mobbed by the thousands night and day, the pope requested something likely to be in short supply — a few minutes alone.

His only company will be perhaps the most revered religious artifact in the Western Hemisphere, a piece of fabric bearing the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

The request for a few minutes by himself with the image was a stunningly personal one from the pope. But he knows the Virgin well, he said, because she has seen him through difficult times.

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A snapshot of Catholics in Mexico, Pope Francis’ next stop

2/10/2016 Pew Research Center

POPE
© Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk

When Pope Francis, the first Latin American pontiff, arrives in Mexico this week, he will be visiting a country that is home to not only the largest Spanish-speaking population in the world, but one of the biggest Catholic populations, too. Indeed, Mexico has the globe’s second-largest number of Catholics, and a larger majority of Mexicans have remained tied to their Catholic faith compared with people in many other Latin American countries.

Across Latin America, the portion of people who identify as Catholic has declined considerably in recent decades, from at least 90% in the 1960s to 69% in 2014. This decline is largely due to widespread conversion to Protestant (and especially evangelical) denominations, as well as some people leaving organized religion altogether. But the trend away from Catholicism has been less pronounced in Mexico, where 81% of adults identify as Catholic today, compared with 90% who say they were raised Catholic, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center report.

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Decrying graft, Pope to tour poor, violent corners of Mexico

7/11/2016 Reuters

pope-francis-707390_640Pope Francis will visit some of the poorest and most violent corners of Mexico on his first visit as pontiff, and will also head to the northern border to address the plight of migrants trying to reach the United States.

More than 100,000 people have been killed in Mexico’s drug wars over the last decade and its reputation was battered by the case of 43 students abducted and apparently massacred in 2014.

President Enrique Pena Nieto´s government botched the investigation, and relatives of the victims are looking to Francis for help in getting to the truth.

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Former murder capital of Mexico presents sunnier image for pope

2/9/2016 Los Angeles Times

ciudad juarezNot long ago, this sprawling border city was known as the murder capital of Mexico.

Hundreds of young women disappeared in the 1990s, falling victim to brutal robberies and murderous sexual assaults. Then battling drug cartels unleashed a worse wave of violence. Nearly 11,000 people were killed in the city from 2007 to 2013.

Texans from neighboring El Paso simply stopped going to Juarez: The number of car passenger and pedestrian crossings between the sister cities dropped by almost 8 million during the worst of the violence.

These days, billboards proclaim, “Juarez es amor” — “Juarez is love” — and officials are claiming a more than 40% drop in homicides over the last two years.

Next to the new “love” logo is an image of a smiling Pope Francis, whose visit next week is being greeted by Juarez officials as a chance to revive and rebrand their city, and to restore its frayed cultural and business ties to El Paso. Residents say they hope Francis and an expected 450,000 visitors see their city as a work in progress, safer but still struggling with crime and poverty.

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Pope Francis urges Mexico – Fight corruption, drug violence

2/3/2016 Reuters

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Mexicans should battle against corruption and grisly drug gang violence, Pope Francis urged on Wednesday, just days before he is set to make his first tour of some of Mexico’s most violence-scarred regions as pontiff.

Blighted by endemic corruption and cartel violence that have killed well over 100,000 people in the past decade, Mexico is still grappling with the fallout of conflict of interest scandals enveloping President Enrique Pena Nieto’s government.

The fate of 43 students abducted and apparently massacred in late 2014, a crime that sent shock waves through Mexico and around the world, is still shrouded in mystery after authorities failed to solve the case.

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El Paso plans for Pope Francis’ visit to U.S.-Mexico border

1/26/2016 CBSNEWS

pope-francis-707390_640EL PASO, Texas — Declaring it an “unparalleled high profile event,” the El Paso City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a set of plans for Pope Francis’ visit to neighboring Ciudad Juárez.

The pope is not scheduled to visit El Paso, but because of the proximity of his motorcade route and mass to the El Paso-Juárez border, the city of El Paso says it will restrict travel in downtown and South-Central El Paso, CBS affiliate KDBC reported.

Leaders say the pope’s visit to Juárez at the end of a five-day tour of Mexico will draw hundreds of thousands to both cities.

El Paso’s plans include closing a portion of a major border highway, several downtown neighborhoods and city government for the day. The city estimates this will cost nearly $1 million in city services, salaries and equipment. At least two El Paso school districts are also closing the day of the visit, scheduled for Feb. 17.

“This is such a positive thing for our community,” El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser said. “I’ll tell everyone, El Paso is Juárez and Juárez is El Paso.”

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Pope Francis to visit Mexico in 2016, Vatican confirms

10/6/2015  The Guardian 

pope-francis-707390_640

Pope Francis will travel to Mexico in 2016, a Vatican spokesman has confirmed, without specifying the trip’s dates.

Federico Lombardi confirmed a Mexican Televisa television report that the Argentinian pontiff will visit the country, where he will pray at the basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, one of the most visited Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world.

While the programme is not yet known, Francis is expected to travel to an area on the border with the United States where migrants try to cross illegally – a gesture he is believed to have first considered during his recent America trip.

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Pope laments ‘murder’ of missing Mexican students

11/12/14 Reuters

Reuters/Tony Gentile
Reuters/Tony Gentile

Pope Francis on Wednesday expressed his sorrow at what he said is clearly the murder of 43 missing Mexican students, though the government has yet to officially declare them dead after their abduction and apparent massacre in the southwest of the country in late September. Mexico’s government has said evidence suggests the 43 trainee teachers were handed over by corrupt police to members of a local drug gang who then incinerated them, but it has yet to confirm the deaths for lack of definitive proof. The case has plunged President Enrique Pena Nieto’s government into its biggest crisis and sparked huge protests. On Saturday night, some demonstrators set fire to the door of the ceremonial presidential palace in central Mexico City. “I’d like somehow to say that I am with the Mexicans, those present and those at home, in this painful moment of what is legally speaking disappearance, but we know, the murder of the students,” Francis said in his general audience in the Vatican.

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