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The Long Awaited Visit of Pope Francis to Mexico

February 24, 2016
The Long Awaited Visit of Pope Francis to Mexico

The visit of Pope Francis to Mexico came at a special moment. The federal government is half-way through its six year term. Whatever happens in 2016 will have a definitive impact on the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto. The Pope’s visit has provided some relief for the people of Mexico in the face of economic and social turmoil. Mexico is the Spanish-speaking country with the most Catholics, where religion has a special and even political significance. Pope Francis’ visit to Mexico is preceded by the much revered visits of Pope John Paul II. The “Pilgrim Pope,” as Karol J. Wojtyła was known in Mexico, cultivated a very close relationship with the people of Mexico. Thereafter, Pope Benedict XVI visited Mexico and, while he made a wonderful impression, he did not attain the levels of adoration achieved by Pope John Paul II. As a result, there were great expectations for Pope Francis’ visit given his charisma and charm. Pope Francis’ itinerary differed markedly from that of previous papal visits, as he specifically sought to visit highly politically tense and controversial areas. He intentionally chose areas of conflict, as opposed to comfort zones. The Pope did not visit the Bajío region, the bastion of Mexican Catholicism. Instead, he chose to visit Chiapas, a state in which poverty and marginalization of indigenous people are rampant and where Protestantism has made significant progress. He also chose to visit Michoacán, where violence is widespread and the people are plagued by insecurity to the extent that some groups have decided to take justice into their own hands. Lastly, Pope Francis chose to visit Ciudad Juarez, where immigration is clearly a pressing issue, and his message was heard loudly and clearly in Mexico and throughout the U.S. and other parts of the world where immigration and the problem of displaced individuals is a current topic.

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