Pope Francis looked visibly tired as he wrapped up his first full day in Mexico that saw him greeting adoring crowds from his popemobile but also giving stern words of criticism to the political and religious elite.
After Mass at the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalup – his last formal appointment – he ventured out of his ambassador’s residence to pray once again with the faithful who have not stopped chanting his name since he arrived.
He asked if they were tired, to which he received a resounding ‘No!’
‘We could go until 4 a.m.?’ the pope asked. ‘Yesss,’ the crowd answered. ‘Well, but that could be a little long,’ he responded.
But despite his warmth to the assembled faithful, his message to the country was a somber one.
As he retreated back inside his gates, Mexico was left to reflect on his stern words for its political elite and bishops after he criticized the country’s corruption and disregard for the needy at an address this morning.
After Mass at the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalup (pictured) – his last formal appointment – he ventured out of his ambassador’s residence to pray once again with the faithful who have not stopped chanting his name since he arrived
But despite his warmth to the assembled faithful, his message to the country was a somber one
As he retreated back inside his gates, Mexico was left to reflect on his stern words for its political elite and bishops after he criticized the country’s corruption and disregard for the needy at an address this morning
He also made particular reference to the people’s devotion to the so-called Santa Muerte, or Death Saint – a female figure who carries a scythe in her bony hand and is worshiped by drug dealers as well as downtrodden residents of neighborhoods run by gangs.
In a speech to Mexican officials and foreign ambassadors at the National Palace, the pontiff addressed his concerns about the violence and corruption that is endemic in the country — and made it quite clear who he thought was to blame.
In a speech to Mexican officials and foreign ambassadors at the National Palace, the pontiff addressed his concerns about the violence and corruption that is endemic in the country — and made it quite clear who he thought was to blame. Pictured: This evening’s Mass
‘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,’ he said, according to The LA Times.
He added: ‘This is not just a question of laws which need to be updated and improved – something always necessary — but rather a need for urgent formation of the personal responsibility of each individual, with full respect for others as men and women jointly responsible in promoting the advancement of the nation.
On tour: Pope Francis’s first day in Mexico after landing last night began with a tour, greeting the faithful thousands who lined up in the streets to see him
Speeches: Both The Pope and President Nieto (pictured, right) gave speeches to the country’s political elite — but the pontiff was scathing about what he saw as corruption and a lack of interest in the well-being of the poor
Joy and sorrow: The Pope cheerfully waves to the crowd on his way to the National Cathedral after meeting the president, but the speech he gave there was less happy, as he scolded bishops for their conduct
‘It is a task which involves all Mexicans in different spheres, public or private, collective or individual.’
The speech, a fixture of every papal trip, is usually the pope’s most political message, and Francis did not disappoint.
But Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto did not address the remarks in his own speech, instead talking about issues that face the entire world rather than specific issues affecting Mexico.
The Pope’s remarks come at a time when Mexico is questioning the level of violence seen on its streets. Earlier this month, the country was rocked by images of a seven-month-old baby that was slain in gang violence.
Thoughtful: Pope Francis appears thoughtful as he sits at the head of the National Cathedral
Audience: Bishops and priests gathered to hear the Pope speak; some even took photographs for posterity
The pontiff then moved on to the Metropolitan Cathedral at Zocalo Square, where he gave a speech to bishops and other members of the clergy.
This, too, was strongly critical, with Francis saying, ‘I am particularly concerned about those many persons who, seduced by the empty power of the world, praise illusions and embrace their macabre symbols to commercialize death in exchange for money which, in the end, ‘moth and rust consume’ and ‘thieves break in and steal’.
I urge you not to underestimate the moral and antisocial challenge which the drug trade represents for Mexican society as a whole, as well as for the church.’
He added that the church should not ‘hide behind aondyne denunciations,’ but actively seek to improve conditions with a ‘prophetic courage’ and ‘qualified pastoral plan’.
Scolding: The Pope’s speech to clergy was stern, telling them to be less enamored of politics and power, and to instead turn their interest towards helping the poor
Waiting: Countless numbers of followers waited outside the National Cathedral to catch a glimpse of the pontiff
He also addressed growing tensions within the Catholic church in Mexico, which in recent times has seen Mexican clergy arguing about whether they should criticize the Mexican government.
‘Be vigilant so that your vision will not be darkened by the gloomy mist of worldliness;’ he told the amassed clergyman. ‘Do not allow yourselves to be corrupted by trivial materialism or by the seductive illusion of underhanded agreements.’
He continued, drawing on Biblical allusions of Moses leading his people away from the Egyptian pharaoh with a pillar of flame and through the parted Red Sea: ‘Do not place your faith in the ‘chariots and horses’ of today’s Pharaohs, for our strength is in ‘the pillar of fire’ which divides the sea in two, without much fanfare.’
And emphasizing the importance of showing the Mexican faithful the respectful church they seek, he advised: ‘Do not lose time or energy in secondary things, in gossip or intrigue, in conceited schemes of careerism, in empty plans for superiority, in unproductive groups that seek benefits or common interests.
‘Do not allow yourselves to be dragged into gossip and slander. Introduce your priests into a right understanding of sacred ministry.’
Motorcade: After his speech to the bishops, The Pope left, waving to thousands more delighted people
Crowd pleaser: Even when he swapped his popemobile for a more petite Fiat, Pope Francis continued to delight the tens of thousands there to see him
Despite this, Francis’s day had started on a brighter note with the cheers of amassed crowds as his popemobile pulled out of the residence where he was staying that morning.The
He abruptly stopped to greet elderly, sick and disabled people who had gathered outside. He handed out rosaries to the faithful in wheelchairs and embraced a young boy wearing a surgical mask.
Tens of thousands more, bundled against the morning chill, lined his 14-kilometer (8.7-mile) motorcade route to the city’s colonial heart as history’s first Latin-American pope — he was born in Argentina — basked in the welcome from the largest Spanish-speaking Catholic country in the world.
Along the route to his residence, people chanted in rhyming Spanish: ‘You see him, you feel him, the pope is present!’ and ‘Francis, friend, the whole world loves you!’
Enthusiasm: Mexico is the largest Spanish-speaking Catholic country in the world, and Francis the first Latin-American Pope, having been born in Argentina. The enthusiasm for his visit was obvious
Meeting: The Pope’s morning ride was followed by a meeting with Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto, with whom he had private talks, then speeches for politicians and clergy
President Enrique Peña Nieto, suffering the lowest approval ratings of a Mexican leader in a quarter century, and his wife, met Francis outside the presidential palace. After a brief welcome ceremony, the two men went into private talks.
Tania Vasquez came with her six-year-old son, Carlos, and other relatives. She held a pennant with the colors of the Mexican flag and images of Francis, a dove and the Virgin of Guadalupe.
‘He’s coming to talk tough to us,’ Vasquez said. ‘In Mexico there are a lot of economic and security problems, there is a lot of egoism, and he comes with a message of peace and hope that we need.’
At one point the motorcade paused when a man ran toward the popemobile, but he was detained by security officers before reaching it and the convoy moved on.
As the pope passed her, Mariana Dieguez was moved to tears and had difficulty speaking.
‘I feel like my heart could jump from my chest. He comes to give us peace because we are living a difficult moment,’ she said, alluding to a month-old grandson who was born ill.
Speech: The Pope’s morning showing was part of a full day’s itinerary that included a speech addressed to the country’s elite and one to its bishops, both of which sternly warned against the corrupting effects of power
Greeting: The Pope landed last night, and was greeted by President Nieto (pictured, center) and his wife (pictured, left). He was also greeted by a group of Mexican children in traditional dress
According to tradition, the Virgin appeared before the Indian peasant Juan Diego in 1531 at Tepeyac, a hillside near Mexico City where Aztecs worshipped a mother-goddess, and her image was miraculously imprinted on his cloak.
The image helped priests inculcate Catholicism among indigenous Mexicans during Spanish colonial rule, and the church later made her patron of all the Americas. Juan Diego was canonized as the hemisphere’s first Indian saint in 2002 during the papacy of John Paul II.
Happiness: The Pope looks happy here, with President Nieto and his wife, but today’s schedule will tackle more serious matters, including speaking to politicians and clergy about the problems facing Mexico
The Mexico trip follows a brief but historic meeting in Havana on Friday, when Francis embraced Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill and with an exclamation of ‘finally,’ took a momentous step toward closing a nearly 1,000-year schism in Christianity.
The two religious leaders signed a 30-point joint declaration of religious unity that committed their churches to overcoming their differences. Francis tweeted that the meeting was a ‘gift from God.’
Francis and Kirill also called for political leaders to act on the single most important issue of shared concern between the Catholic and Orthodox churches today: the plight of Christians in Iraq and Syria who are being killed and driven from their homes by the Islamic State group.
Later aboard his plane, Francis said the declaration was not a political statement, but rather a pastoral one. It came from ‘two bishops who met and discussed their pastoral concerns,’ he said.
Vatican officials estimate as many as 1 million people came out to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis during his first full day in Mexico.