Excitement for Pope Francis’ Visit Mounts in Mexico
Mexico has hosted papal visits before. In his five visits, Saint John Paul II met with boisterous welcomes and even received a midnight serenade.
Pope Francis can expect the same. He is the first Latin American pope, a native of Argentina and a popular world figure.
The Mexican Episcopal Conference describes the upcoming visit as a gift from God to Mexico and Latin America.
The conference has been preparing since last December 12, the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, when the pope confirmed his visit. About 30 full-time workers are involved, along with the Archdiocese of Mexico, the Mexican Episcopal Conference, the Vatican government and the laity.
The Year of Mercy and Our Lady of Guadalupe
Bishop Eugenio Lira, secretary of the Mexican Episcopal Conference, says the pope's visit this Jubilee Year of Mercy is significant for Mexico because it represents the divine mercy of God close to the Mexican people.
The pope is expected to consecrate the Year of Mercy to Our Lady of Guadalupe on February 13 during his visit to the Basilica of Guadalupe. The bishop says the pope is a faithful devotee of Our Lady, and that every time he meets Catholics from Mexico in Rome, he requests that they ask the Virgin Mary to pray for him.
“With this visit, it is God´s will, through the Vicar of Christ on earth, to confirm us in our faith, encourage us in hope, strengthen us in charity and communicate those universal values that flow from the Gospel,” Bishop Lira says.
A country of great contrasts
Regarding Mexico, Bishop Lira says the pope will experience a big country blessed with an extraordinary geographical location, vast natural resources, indigenous and mestizo cultures, and many good, honest, hardworking people who want things to go well. But, he says, Pope Francis will also see a country with difficulties.
“Due to some people who are seduced by sin, a difficult environment has been brought about, as some seeking only their own benefit have brought about inequality, injustice, impunity, corruption, violence and death. I think the pope's visit will help us discover how much God has blessed us to understand that with God's help and doing our part, we can improve everything,” says Bishop Lira.
“The pope does not come to solve our problems,” he says. “Rather, he comes in the light of the Gospel to communicate to us how to solve them.”
Bishop praises organizations like CRS
Bishop Lira says that the work of organizations like Catholic Relief Services is commendable, and shows God’s love. CRS' presence in Mexico dates to 1943.
“Anyone who loves God and his neighbor contributes to a better life. It is a task that must be recognized and encouraged,” he says.
Thousands of visitors
The papal visit is expected to draw the faithful throughout Mexico, the United States and Central America. The pope will address the plight of indigenous people of Guatemala, in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, near the Mexico-Guatemala border on February 15.
The Mass in Ecatepec on February 14 may attract 300,000 people. Bishop Lira says the pope asked to be received with simplicity—with no luxuries.
The Catholic Church in Mexico warns against counterfeit tickets for papal events. He says free tickets will be sent to the 93 dioceses. Bishops will distribute them.