Pope to visit marginalized communities in Mexico in February

IMAGE: CNS photo/Reuters

By Carol Glatz

Francis will visit some of the most marginalized communities in Mexico and seek
to bring hope to a country deeply suffering from crime, corruption and
inequality when he visits in February.

The Vatican announced Dec. 12
details about the pope’s Feb. 12-17 trip to Mexico, during which he will stop
in six cities, including two in the state of Chiapas and — across from El
Paso, Texas — Ciudad Juarez, which just five years ago was considered the “murder
capital of the world” as drug cartels disputed a trafficking corridor.

The pope said in November that
he wanted to visit cities where St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI never
went. But he said he will stop at the capital of Mexico City to pray at the
Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. “But if it wasn’t for Our Lady I wouldn’t”
go there, he had told reporters.

The pope will fly out of and
return to Mexico City each day after celebrating Mass at the basilica on the
second day of his trip.

Over the following four days, he
will visit a pediatric hospital in the capital as well as families and
indigenous communities in the southernmost state of Chiapas, Mexico’s poorest
state, which gained worldwide attention for the 1990s Zapatista rebellion.

He will visit young people and
religious in Morelia, celebrate Mass on the Mexican-U.S. border in Ciudad
Juarez and visit its infamous Cereso state prison, where at least 20 people
were killed during riots in 2009 triggered by rival gangs among the prisoners.

“We are certain that the
presence of the Holy Father will confirm us in the faith, hope and charity and
will help the church move ahead in its permanent mission,” the Mexican
bishops’ conference said in a Dec. 12 statement. “It will encourage
believers and nonbelievers and commit us to the construction of a just Mexico,
with solidarity, reconciliation and peace,” the statement said.

Father Oscar Enriquez, parish
priest and director of the Paso del Norte Human Rights Center in Ciudad Juarez,
told Catholic News Service that Juarez is often seen as an example of
overcoming extreme violence. “The pope always looks for the peripheries.
Juarez is the periphery of Mexico and it’s a place migrants pass through.”

Father Patricio Madrigal, pastor
of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in the Michoacan city of Nueva Italia said
by visiting Morelia, the pope “wants to be closer to an area beaten down
by violence. He wants to bring comfort and also closeness.”

The pope’s meeting with young
people and religious in Morelia is important, Father Madrigal told CNS, as the
church there works to keep kids out of the cartels and provide priests with
support and “strengthen us in the faith and our work in attending to
victims of violence.” Priests in the rugged Tierra Caliente region there
had lent moral and spiritual support to vigilantes arming themselves to run off
a drug cartel in 2013.

Pope Francis “wants to give
young people a message of hope and that they stay away from the temptation of
violence,” the priest said.

Here is the pope’s itinerary as
released by the Vatican. Times listed are local, with Eastern Daylight Time in
parentheses. The places the pope will visit are on Central Time except Ciudad
Juarez, which is on Mountain Time.

Friday, Feb. 12 (Rome, Mexico

— 12:30 p.m. (6:30 a.m.)
Departure from Rome’s Fiumicino airport.

— 7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.) Arrival
at “Benito Juarez” International Airport in Mexico City. Officials to
greet pope.

Saturday, Feb. 13 (Mexico City)

— 9:30 a.m. (10:30 a.m.)
Welcoming ceremony at the National Palace. Courtesy visit with the president of
the republic.

— 10:15 a.m. (11:15 a.m.)
Meeting with representatives of civil society and the diplomatic corps. Speech
by pope.

— 11:30 a.m. (12:30 p.m.)
Meeting with Mexico’s bishops in the city’s cathedral. Speech by pope.

— 5 p.m. (6 p.m.) Mass in the
Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Homily by pope.

Sunday, Feb. 14 (Mexico City,
Ecatepec, Mexico City)

— 9:20 a.m. (10:20 a.m.)
Transfer by helicopter to Ecatepec.

— 10:30 a.m. (11:30 a.m.) Mass
in the area of the “study center” of Ecatepec. Homily by pope. Pope
recites Angelus.

— 12:50 p.m. (1:50 p.m.)
Transfer by helicopter to Mexico City.

— 1:10 p.m. (2:10 p.m.) Arrival
in Mexico City.

— 4:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m.) Visit
to the Federico Gomez Children’s Hospital of Mexico. Greeting by pope.

— 6 p.m. (7 p.m.) Meeting in
the National Auditorium with representatives of culture. Speech by pope.

Monday, Feb. 15 (Mexico City,
Tuxtla Gutierrez, San Cristobal de Las Casas, Mexico City)

— 7:30 a.m. (8:30 a.m.)
Departure by plane for Tuxtla Gutierrez.

— 9:15 a.m. (10:15 a.m.) Transfer
by helicopter to San Cristobal de Las Casas.

— 10:15 a.m. (11:15 a.m.) Mass
at the city’s sports center with the indigenous community from Chiapas. Homily
by pope.

— 1 p.m. (2 p.m.) Lunch with
representatives of the indigenous community and the papal entourage.

— 3 p.m. (4 p.m.) Visit to the
cathedral of San Cristobal de Las Casas.

— 3:35 p.m. (4:35 p.m.)
Transfer by helicopter to Tuxtla Gutierrez.

— 4:15 p.m. (5:15 p.m.) Meeting
with families at the Victor Manuel Reyna Stadium at Tuxtla Gutierrez. Speech by

— 6:10 p.m. (7:10 p.m.)
Departure by plane for Mexico City.

— 8 p.m. (9 p.m.) Arrival at
the Mexico City airport.

Tuesday, Feb. 16 (Mexico City,
Morelia, Mexico City)

— 7:50 a.m. (8:50 a.m.)
Departure by airplane for Morelia.

— 10 a.m. (11 a.m.) Mass with
priests, seminarians, religious men and women, and consecrated persons. Homily
by pope.

— 3:15 p.m. (4:15 p.m.) Visit
to the city’s cathedral.

— 4:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m.) Meeting
with young people at the Jose Maria Morelos Pavon Stadium. Speech by pope.

— 6:55 p.m. (7:55 p.m.)
Departure by plane for Mexico City.

— 8 p.m. (9 p.m.) Arrival in
Mexico City.

Wednesday, Feb. 17 (Mexico City,
Ciudad Juarez)

— 8:35 a.m. (9:35 a.m.)
Departure by plane for Ciudad Juarez.

— 10 a.m. (12 p.m.) Arrival at Abraham
Gonzalez International Airport in Ciudad Juarez.

— 10:30 a.m. (12:30 p.m.) Visit
to Cereso prison. Speech by pope.

— 12 p.m. (2 p.m.) Meeting with
workers and employers at the Colegio de Bachilleres of the Mexican state of
Chihuahua. Speech by pope.

— 4 p.m. (6 p.m.) Mass at the
fairgrounds of Ciudad Juarez. Homily and greeting by pope.

— 7 p.m. (9 p.m.) Departure
ceremony at the Ciudad Juarez International Airport.

— 7:15 p.m. (9:15 p.m.) Departure
by plane for Rome.

Thursday, Feb. 18 (Rome)

— 2:45 p.m. (8:45 a.m.) Arrival
at Rome’s Ciampino Airport.

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Contributing to this story was
David Agren in Mexico City.

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