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Mexican bishop, Caritas staffer say situation serious, complicated after quake

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MEXICO CITY — A Catholic bishop and a Caritas worker in Mexico said the situation was extremely serious after the Sept. 19 earthquake, and much aid would be needed.

“The situation is complicated, because the first earthquake (Sept. 7) had already affected thousands of people in Chiapas and Oaxaca,” Alberto Arciniega, head of communications for Caritas Mexico, told Catholic News Service Sept. 20. “The church is continuing to assist those dioceses, but with what happened yesterday, the emergency situation is being re-evaluated to get a more exact assessment of the aid that is needed.”

People mourn Sept. 20 near caskets containing the bodies of victims who died after the roof of a church in Atzala, Mexico, collapsed in the Sept. 19 earthquake. (CNS photo/Imelda Medina, Reuters)

The Vatican announced Sept. 21 that, through the Dicastery for Promoting Human Development, Pope Francis is sending an initial $150,000 to aid Mexico. Money will be distributed by the nuncio to dioceses most affected.

Arciniega said all the dioceses in Mexico were collecting food, water and other necessities for victims of the quakes. He said they were seeking economic support from inside and outside the country.

“We know it is a serious situation, and international aid is being requested,” Arciniega told Catholic News Service.

“Rehabilitation and reconstruction will take time and will be expensive,” he added. “Thousands of people have been left homeless, and many churches have been damaged.”

The magnitude 7.1 quake that hit Sept. 19 was not as strong as the earlier magnitude 8.1 quake, but the second quake was centered in Puebla state, just southeast of Mexico City, as opposed to in the Pacific Ocean. Arciniega said Puebla and Morelos states and Mexico City were worst hit in the second quake, which killed more than 230 people.

In Morelos, just to the south of Mexico City, damage was widespread. Gov. Graco Ramirez put the death toll at 73.

President Enrique Pena Nieto has visited the municipality of Jujutla, where houses were reduced to rubble.

Oscar Cruz, spokesman for the Diocese of Cuernavaca, based in the Morelos state capital, said “the damage is worse … in many towns that are even poorer.”

At least 89 parishes in Morelos state suffered damage or were destroyed, according the National History and Anthropology Institute, which is responsible for Mexico’s older churches. The Cuernavaca cathedral, which dates to the 1500s and been undergoing restoration activities, also suffered damage and parts of it cannot be used, Cruz said.

Parish residences also were damaged, leaving priests homeless, Cruz said. A pair of priests were injured by falling debris; one was still hospitalized Sept. 21.

The diocese has started collecting goods for those left homeless.

“People have been extraordinary,” Cruz said. “This has been an extraordinary moment of solidarity. People are coming out and saying, ‘I want to help.’”

Bishop Ramon Castro of Cuernavaca has been touring the hardest-hit towns of Morelos. The bishop and the state governor had been at odds in recent years of social policies promoted by the governor and the bishop’s refusal to stop condemning violence and corruption in the state.

The pair have put aside their differences in the wake of such a disaster, Cruz said.

“There’s no working together” on the relief effort, “but we’re not getting in each other’s way,” Cruz said.

Mostly, priests and the bishop “have been trying to be close to the people,” he added.

Earlier, Arciniega shared audio of an interview with Bishop Castro, who noted that parishes in his diocese had been collecting items to send to victims of the Sept. 7 earthquake in Chiapas and Oaxaca. Now those items, if they were not destroyed in the Sept. 19 quake, will be used locally, the bishop said, adding, “but it will not be enough.”

Arciniega was in Oaxaca when he spoke Sept. 20. He said the Sept. 19 earthquake was felt there, but apparently did not cause damage.

“People (in the south) are worried that the assistance will stop because the cameras and newscasts are focusing on Mexico City. There is fear that the aid will stop and the emphasis will be on the center of the country,” he said.

He added that it was raining in Tehuantepec, an area of Oaxaca damaged in the first earthquake, which killed nearly 100 people.

“That makes the housing situation more complicated. Not only did people’s homes collapse, but now it’s raining, so people are in shelters, they need food. They are setting up community kitchens. We are continuing to evaluate how much the diocese can do to help itself and requesting aid from other dioceses and from outside the country.”

     

Contributing to this story were David Agren in Mexico City; Barbara Fraser in Lima, Peru; and Cindy Wooden at the Vatican.

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Pope Francis prays in silence before Our Lady of Guadalupe image

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Catholic News Service

MEXICO CITY — Pope Francis fulfilled his much-desired wish to pray in silence before the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Pope Francis touches the original image of Our Lady of Guadalupe after celebrating Mass in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City Feb. 13. The Marian image was rotated for the pope to pray in the "camarin" ("little room") behind the main altar. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis touches the original image of Our Lady of Guadalupe after celebrating Mass in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City Feb. 13. The Marian image was rotated for the pope to pray in the “camarin” (“little room”) behind the main altar. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

After celebrating the first Mass of his papal trip to Mexico Feb. 13, the pope made his way to the “camarin” (“little room”) behind the main altar of the basilica dedicated to Mary. The miraculous mantle, which normally faces the congregation, can be turned around to allow a closer and more private moment of veneration.

Laying a bouquet of yellow roses in front of the image, the pope sat down in prayerful silence with eyes closed and head bowed. After roughly 20 minutes, the pope stood up, laid his hand on the image and departed from the small room.

About 12,000 people packed the basilica for the papal Mass and another 30,000 were watching on screens set up in the outer courtyard. Built in 1976, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is located near Tepeyac hill, the site of Mary’s apparitions to St. Juan Diego in 1531. With some 12 million people visiting each year, it is Catholicism’s most popular Marian shrine.

In his homily, the pope reflected on the Gospel reading, which recalled Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth. Mary’s humility in saying “yes” to God’s will, he said, is a response “which prompted her to give the best of herself, going forth to meet others.”

That very humility also led her to appear to a poor indigenous man, he said. “Just as she made herself present to little Juan, so too she continues to reveal herself to all of us, especially to those who feel, like him, ‘worthless,’” the pope said.

Recalling the miraculous appearance of Mary’s image, Pope Francis noted that through such a miracle, “Juan experienced in his own life what hope is, what the mercy of God is.”

The pope said that despite the indigenous saint’s feelings of inadequacy, Mary chose him to “oversee, care for, protect and promote the building of this shrine.”

“In this way, she managed to awaken something he did not know how to express, a veritable banner of love and justice: no one could be left out in the building of that other shrine: the shrine of life, the shrine of our communities, our societies and our cultures,” he said.

God’s true shrine, he added, is the life of his children, especially young people without a future, the elderly who are often unacknowledged and forgotten and families lacking even the most basic necessities.

“The shrine of God is the faces of the many people we encounter each day,” the pope said.

Pope Francis said that those who suffer do not weep in vain and their sufferings are a silent prayer that rises to heaven, “always finding a place in Mary’s mantle.”

Like St. Juan Diego, Christians are called to be Mary’s ambassadors and console those who are overwhelmed by trials and sufferings, he said.

“‘Am I not your mother? Am I not here with you?’ Mary says this to us again. Go and build my shrine, help me to lift up the lives of my sons and daughters, your brothers and sisters,” the pope said.

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Pope to visit poor communities in Mexico in February

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope 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.

A covered makeshift bathroom is seen in late October in a low-income neighborhood in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Ciudad Juarez is one of the  marginalized communities Pope Francis will visit in Mexico during his trip in February. (CNS photo/Reuters)

A covered makeshift bathroom is seen in late October in a low-income neighborhood in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Ciudad Juarez is one of the marginalized communities Pope Francis will visit in Mexico during his trip in February. (CNS photo/Reuters)

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 City)

— 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 pope.

— 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.

– – –

Contributing to this story was David Agren in Mexico City.

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Mexican official confirms pope to visit capital, three states early next year

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Catholic News Service

MEXICO CITY — Mexican Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu has confirmed that Pope Francis will visit the capital, Mexico City, along with the states of Chihuahua and Chiapas, on the northern and southern borders respectively, and Michoacan in western Mexico.

People walk outside the Metropolitan Cathedral in 2013 in Mexico City. Mexican Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu has confirmed that Pope Francis will visit the capital, along with the states of Chihuahua and Chiapas, on the northern and southern borders respectively, and Michoacan in western Mexico. (CNS photo/Alex Cruz, EPA)

People walk outside the Metropolitan Cathedral in 2013 in Mexico City. Mexican Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu has confirmed that Pope Francis will visit the capital, along with the states of Chihuahua and Chiapas, on the northern and southern borders respectively, and Michoacan in western Mexico. (CNS photo/Alex Cruz, EPA)

“The details will be known in December,” she said Nov. 11, acknowledging where the pope will travel early next year. Spokesmen for dioceses in the three states and Mexico City confirmed details when contacted by Catholic New Service.

Most notably, Pope Francis is exploring the possibility of visiting the previously problematic border city of Ciudad Juarez, where a battle between drug cartels during the past decade cost more than 10,000 lives in a four-year period.

The Vatican’s papal planning team, along with representatives of the Mexican government, visited in preparation for a possible trip, which would include encounters with the community, priests and seminarians and perhaps a prison visit in a lockup previously considered the worst in Latin America.

“The probability is very high that he comes to Juarez,” said Father Hesiquio Trevizo, spokesman for the Diocese of Ciudad Juarez.

Pope Francis is also expected to visit Chiapas, the least-Catholic state in Mexico, where a portion of the mostly indigenous population has abandoned the church for Protestant congregations. Father Pedro Arriaga, spokesman for the Diocese of San Cristobal de Las Casas, says the visit comes as the Vatican, under Pope Francis’ leadership, looks favorably on celebrating Mass in local languages, now a reality in Chiapas, and the ordination of indigenous deacons, something previous popes ended.

The pope’s approach coincides with that of Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia, who led the diocese for four decades until 1999, Father Arriaga said. The bishop focused on the indigenous, “the periphery,” and addressing both poverty and the environment, the priest said.

In Michoacan, to the west of Mexico City, the pope will find a state still struggling with outward migration and violence from a quasi-religious drug cartel known as Knights Templar, which operated in the long-neglected Tierra Caliente region. The Knights Templar preached its home-spun version of the Gospel as it made methamphetamines in clandestine labs and extorted locals. Self-defense groups formed in 2013 in response and often operated with the blessing of priests in the Diocese of Apatzingan.

Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City has announced Pope Francis will arrive Feb. 12 in what’s the world’s second-most populous Catholic country, where politicians are consumed with issues such as violence, corruption and a way to win legitimacy through appearances with the pontiff. The trip, if carried out as proposed, would allow the pope to address issues such as poverty, migration, violence and indigenous issues, along with visiting the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the world’s most visited Marian shrine.

Earlier, Pope Francis said he wanted to visit Ciudad Juarez in 2015 and cross the border into neighboring El Paso, Texas, in an act of solidarity with migrants, many of whom transit Mexico in attempts to reach the United States.

Father Trevizo said such a crossing is unlikely on the 2016 papal visit. He said the border visit would be for a day and expressed hopes the papal visit would “reinforce the faith” in a city with growing non-Catholic congregations and still scarred by the violence erupting after rival cartels disputed a coveted drug-trafficking corridor.

“It’s a city that has experienced conflicts,” he said. “It’s lived through deep crises such as the killing of so many women, the war against drug trafficking, which left more lives lost than a traditional war.”

Ciudad Juarez, which mushroomed as factories for export were built near the U.S. border, became notorious for murdered and missing women, whose cases went unsolved and unpunished. Drug violence exploded late in the past decade and hit the city especially hard, along with factories suspending operations due to the 2008 world economic crisis.

The economy has bounced back, but the conditions in the maquiladoras, as the export factories are known, are not always ideal, and priests say the conditions led to situations of both parents working long hours make ends meet, while children were left without guidance.

“There is plenty of work, but it’s poorly paid,” said Father Roberto Luna, pastor at the Corpus Christi Parish, where crime was so bad that thieves stole the church bell. “People worry about losing their jobs, but, at the same time, they’re looking to make more.”

Violence has diminished to the point Ciudad Juarez, with a population of 1.3 million, registered just 17 homicides in October, though priests caution the issue is not entirely resolved.

The local prison, where a riot left 18 dead in 2011, is also being renovated to eliminate issues such as overcrowding and inmates running the institution.

“Violence has increased in other parts of Mexico,” Father Luna says. “It’s has taken attention away from Juarez.”

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Cardinal: Pope Francis will visit Mexico in February

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Catholic News Service

MEXICO CITY — Pope Francis will visit Mexico in February, marking the pontiff’s first trip to the heavily Catholic country, said Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City.

Cardinal Rivera revealed the date Pope Francis would arrive in Mexico Feb. 12 during a homily Nov. 1, but he offered no other information on itineraries or the length of the stay.

People sit next to the graves of their relatives during the Day of the Dead in Santa Maria Atzompa, Mexico, Nov. 1. (CNS photo/Jorge Luis Plata, Reuters)

People sit next to the graves of their relatives during the Day of the Dead in Santa Maria Atzompa, Mexico, Nov. 1. (CNS photo/Jorge Luis Plata, Reuters)

“From that day onward, we will receive him with a lot of affection,” he said.

The Vatican has not confirmed the dates.

Father Hugo Valdemar Romero, Mexico City Archdiocese spokesman, said Vatican officials responsible for organizing papal trips planned to arrive in Mexico Nov. 3. Details of where the pope might visit “are still to be determined,” he said.

Vatican and Mexican church officials confirmed in October that Pope Francis would visit Mexico in 2016, triggering media speculation on where he would visit and pronouncements from politicians that the pontiff would pay visits to their states.

“It’s due to the decadence of the political class” and it wanting to “take advantage … of the pope’s enormous popularity,” Father Valdemar said of the enthusiasm for the pope among politicians, a group that clung to anti-clerical ideals in past decades as church and state were officially estranged in Mexico.

Both houses of the Mexican Congress have invited Pope Francis to speak, as he did in the United States, but Father Valdemar called that possibility “unlikely.”

The pope’s mission is “evangelizing and reinvigorating the believers’ faith,” said Bishop Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel of San Cristobal de las Casas in southern Chiapas state, the newspaper La Jornada reported.

Pope Francis is expected to stop at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, the world’s most visited Marian shrine.

States mentioned for visits include Michoacan to the west of Mexico City, where outward migration has been strong for generations. Self-defense groups formed there in recent years with the blessing of parish priests to fight back against drug cartels. Chiapas, home to a large indigenous population, also has been mentioned.

Pope Francis said in September that he had wanted to visit Mexico, but instead went to Cuba in advance of his U.S. trip. In Mexico, Pope Francis told reporters his wish was to symbolically cross from the border city of Ciudad Juarez into the U.S. as an expression of solidarity with migrants.

Priests, religious and lay Catholics are at the front lines of those offering humanitarian and legal assistance to the thousands of Central Americans transiting the country on northbound trips, although such migrants are increasingly being detained and deported.

“The subject he wants to address is migration and Ciudad Juarez is being signaled,” Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes of Tlalnepantla told the newspaper Excelsior.

Pope Francis will be the third pontiff to visit Mexico. Pope Benedict XVI made the last papal visit in 2012, traveling to Guanajuato state.

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Pope Francis will visit Mexico in 2016

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Catholic News Service

MEXICO CITY — The Mexican bishops’ conference and the Vatican have confirmed Pope Francis will visit Mexico in 2016, marking his first trip to this heavily Catholic country in throes of unrest over unresolved issues such as violence, crime and corruption.

Auxiliary Bishop Eugenio Lira Rugarcia of Puebla, conference secretary-general, told Catholic News Service that the pope would travel to Mexico next year, though dates and details were still to be determined. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, provided similar information to the Televisa network, adding the trip would likely take place during the first half of 2016 and include a stop in the capital, Mexico City.

Pope Francis has previously mused about visiting Mexico, home to the world’s second-largest Catholic population. After visiting the Philippines last year, the pope said he wanted to walk from Mexico into the United States “as a sign of brotherhood and of help to the immigrants,” along with visiting the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the world’s most-visited Marian shrine.

He said in September that he had planned to enter the United States at a border crossing, going from Ciudad Juarez to El Paso, Texas, but opted to instead visit Cuba after the communist country and the United States ended their estrangement, with Vatican assistance.

Migration, in the form of Central Americans traveling through Mexico and falling victim to criminals and corrupt public officials, is one of many potential issues on the agenda for Pope Francis in Mexico.

A visit in early 2016 would come as the country continues confronting vices like corruption, which has implicated the president, and insecurity in states such as Michoacan and Guerrero, the latter being where 43 students were kidnapped and presumably killed by police acting in cahoots with criminals in September 2014.

President Enrique Pena Nieto, whose agenda has focused more on economic reforms than social and security problems, has traveled twice to the Vatican since Pope Francis’ election. In June 2014, his visit followed the bishops’ conference issuing an unusually terse statement on his economic agenda.

Politicians from Pena Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party, which was founded by the anti-clerical victors of the Mexican Revolution, previously avoided public encounters with prelates, but have sought well-publicized papal audiences in recent years, reflecting the thaw in church-state relations over the past 25 years.

Pope Benedict XVI made the last papal trip to Mexico in March 2012, visiting Guanajuato state. His visit drew an estimated 600,000 people for the final Mass, doubling expectations, though his message stayed away from uncomfortable issues such as security.

According to census data, Mexico remains one of Latin America’s most Catholic countries, with 83 percent of the population professing the faith.

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Biden visits Guadalupe shrine, speaks of mother’s devotion

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Catholic News Service

MEXICO CITY — Vice President Joe Biden prayed at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe while visiting Mexico City and later told reporters he would have stopped at the shrine even if he had no official business in the Mexican capital.

Biden visited after meeting with Mexican politicians and political candidates March 5. He knelt before an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and later spoke of his mother’s devotion to Mary.

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