Pope Francis gives tough love-speech in Mexico
MEXICO CITY — Pope Francis issued a tough-love message to Mexico’s political and church elites Saturday, telling them they have a duty to provide their people with security, justice and courageous pastoral care to confront the drug-inspired violence and corruption that torment the country.
The raucous welcome Francis received from cheering Mexicans who lined his motorcade route seven-deep contrasted sharply with his pointed criticism of how church and state leaders here often have failed their people, especially the poorest and most marginalized.
“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 told government authorities at the presidential palace.
In a subsequent hard-hitting speech to his own bishops, Francis challenged church leaders known for their deference to Mexico’s wealthy and powerful to courageously denounce the “insidious threat” posed by the drug trade and not hide behind their own privilege and careers.
He told them to be true pastors, close to their people, and to develop a coherent plan to help Mexicans “finally escape the raging waters that drown so many, either victims of the drug trade or those who stand before God with their hands drenched in blood, though with pockets filled with sordid money and their consciences deadened.”
The speech was met with tepid applause, with only a handful of bishops standing in ovation.
Francis’ entire five-day trip to Mexico is shining an uncomfortable spotlight on the church’s shortcomings and the government’s failure to solve entrenched social ills that plague many parts of the country — poverty, rampant drug-inspired gangland killings, extortion, disappearances of women, crooked cops and failed public services.
Over the coming days, Francis will travel to the crime-ridden Mexico City suburb of Ecatepec, preach to Indians in poverty-stricken Chiapas, offer solidarity to victims of drug violence in Morelia and, finally, pay respects to migrants who have died trying to reach the United States with a cross-border Mass in Ciudad Juarez.
Francis began his first full day in the country with a winding ride into the capital’s historic center to the delight of tens of thousands of Mexicans greeting history’s first Latin American pope. Despite an exhausting Friday that involved a historic embrace with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Francis obliged their demands and stopped to hand out rosaries to the elderly, sick and disabled who gathered in front of his residence.
The mileage that Francis is clocking standing up in his open-air popemobile is a testament to his appreciation of Mexicans’ need to see him up close: After a 14-mile nighttime ride in from the airport and the 9 miles logged Saturday morning, Francis still has about 93 miles more to go in the popemobile before his trip ends Wednesday.
In a nod to his thrifty ways, three of the five popemobiles Francis will use are being recycled from his U.S. trip in September. Francis is also sticking to an economy car when he’s not in a popemobile.
Francis began Saturday by meeting with President Enrique Peña Nieto at the presidential palace. He told the president and other members of government that public officials must be honest and upright and not be seduced by privilege or corruption.