Welcome to the CNS news report for Monday, Feb. 29, 2016


MEXICO CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis told Mexico’s president
and government officials that the country’s future can be bright only if
government and business leaders put an end to a culture of “favors”
for the influential and scraps for the poor.

“Experience teaches us that each time we seek the path
of privileges or benefits for a few to the detriment of the good of all, sooner
or later the life of society becomes a fertile soil for corruption, drug trade,
exclusion of different cultures, violence and also human trafficking,
kidnapping and death, bringing suffering and slowing down development,”
the pope said Feb. 13 during a meeting with the leaders at the National Palace.

The pope had landed in Mexico the evening before for a
six-day visit. Because of the late hour and the long flight from Rome via Cuba,
the official welcoming ceremony was scheduled for the next morning. But that
did not stop thousands of Mexicans from packing stadium-type stands at the
airport to welcome the pope with singing, dancing and a mariachi band.

Thousands of people also lined the streets from the airport
to the Vatican nunciature, where the pope was staying, and a large crowd was
gathered there to greet him.

Pope Francis, stopping outside for a while, told them,
“Tonight, do not forget to look at Mary and think of the people we love
and those who do not love us.” He said good night after leading them in
the recitation of the Hail Mary.

Before the trip, the pope repeatedly spoke of his devotion
to Our Lady of Guadalupe and his desire to spend time in prayer before the
tilma or cloak imprinted with the image of Mary.

Pope Francis gave President Enrique Pena Nieto a mosaic of
Our Lady of Guadalupe made by the Vatican Mosaic Studio; it includes tiny glass
tiles that encase gold leaf.

Although protocol dictated the pope’s time at the palace be
treated as a state visit, Pena Nieto told the pope, “Your visit transcends an
encounter between two states; it is the encounter of a people with its

“You will find a generous and hospitable people,” the
president told him, “a people who are Guadalupan.”

Speaking to the president and government officials, the pope
insisted that, like Mary, who took on the traits of Mexico’s indigenous peoples
in a sign of respect, Mexico’s leaders must value the multicultural makeup of
its people.

Mexico’s “ancestral culture” combined with the
youth of its population “should be a stimulus to find new forms of
dialogue, negotiation and bridges that can lead us on the way of committed
solidarity,” the pope said.

Those who identify themselves as Christian must be exemplars
of dialogue and solidarity, he said, and those who truly value politics as
public service must as well. There is no other way, the pope said, to build
“a society in which no one feels like a victim of the culture of waste”
and, therefore, disposable.

Mexico’s population is about 120 million; 28 percent of them
are 14 years old or younger and another 18 percent are 15-24 years old. The
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ranks Mexico as one of
the countries with the greatest income inequality and reports 21 percent of its
population lives in poverty.

Pope Francis told government leaders that those young people
are a treasure, a bundle of energy and hope for the future. But the country
cannot realize that future hope if the current generation of adults and leaders
do not teach values and, especially, if they do not live them.

“A hope-filled future is forged in a present made up of
men and women who are upright, honest and capable of working for the common
good,” the pope said, adding that, unfortunately, today the common good
“is not in such great demand.”

With dialogue and respect, he said, all Mexicans can be
helped to contribute to building a better society where there is “real
access” to necessary material and spiritual goods: “adequate housing,
dignified employment, food, true justice, effective security, a healthy and
peaceful environment.”

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Contributing to this story was Junno Arocho Esteves in
Mexico City.

Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden

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