|First lady Margarita Zavala, the Pope and the President of|
México, Felipe Calderón
SILAO, Mexico —Pope Benedict XVI was greeted by Mexico’s president, Felipe Calderón, his wife, and thousands of Roman Catholics from all over Mexico, who came to show their love and admiration waving flags, and cheering after waiting for hours in the sun.
The pope said he has come “as a pilgrim of faith, hope and love.” He also added “With this brief visit, I wish to greet all Mexicans and to include all the people of Latin America, represented here by many bishops.”
The pope is expected to give an outdoor Mass on Sunday in Guanajuato, before traveling to Cuba, where he will head Monday for the second and final leg of his short journey to América.
Catholics and mexicans in general, are worried and preocupied over the deaths of more than 50,000 people since Calderon´s government’s initiated a war against the drug cartels late in 2006 (a president term in México is for 6 years).
Pope Benedict made emphasis, that Mexico’s violence has been caused by greed. The church, he told reporters on the papal plane, has a responsibility to guide young people away from that false promise, “to educate the conscience, teach moral responsibility and strip off the mask, the idolatry of money that enslaves mankind.”
The pope also said on the plane that “Marxist ideology as it was conceived no longer responds to reality,” and he urged Cubans to “find new models, with patience, and in a constructive way.”
It remains to be seen how far he will go in criticizing the Cuban government for its limits on human rights, and the Mexican government for its violent drug war, but within minutes of his arrival here, it was clear that he is likely to receive a warm welcome from the clergy and faithful.
At the airport in Silao, a city located between Guanajuato and León, thousands of people filled the bleachers, hours before the pope’s plane landed. At 4:15 p.m. local time, the crowd erupted with cheers and shouts of “Benedicto”, as the plane touched mexican soil.
Guanajuato has been the Catholic heart of Mexico for centuries, having the country’s highest concentration of Catholics (around 90 per cent), most of the Pope´s activities will be held here.
Pope Benedict is visiting a country wounded by years of drug-related violence and a church whose priests have been hardly criticized for involvemente in sexual abuse and receiving money from drug cartels, for that reason, Catholics and critics of the church are demanding that the pope address — with compassion and clarity — not just the bloodshed ripping Mexico apart, but also scandals involving a group called the Legions of Christ and its founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado.
The accusations that Father Maciel was a drug addict who abused teenage seminarians re-emerged this week with a new book by a former Legion priest, which cites internal Vatican documents supposedly showing the church and the Pope knew ago about the allegations against Father Maciel, who died in 2008.
Pope Benedict, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, ultimately removed Father Maciel from his priestly duties in 2006, but some experts in church relations and former victims say that his efforts have fallen short. They argue that he knew about Father Maciel, from testimony of other priests, since at least 1998, and that if he fails to address the case during his visit this week, he will have missed an opportunity to heal a country of Catholics eager for resolution.
Nonetheless, despite a handwritten request from a 75-year-old victim of Father Maciel for a meeting with the pope, the Vatican has suggested that the pope will not meet any victims. Few expect him to speak about the scandal at all.
“The pope is going to talk about religious freedom but won’t touch the issue of pederasty,” said Roberto Blancarte, a professor and an expert in the Mexican Catholic Church at Colegio de México.
Pictures source: Getty Images
Pictures source: Getty Images