Pope meets with Mexico's president, greets children
Mar 25, 2012, 3:32 GMT
Guanajuato, Mexico - Pope Benedict XVI called for the world to protect children and ensure them a future without violence, hunger or suffering during a trip to Mexico.
'I wish to lift up my voice, inviting everyone to protect and to care for children so that nothing may extinguish their smile but that they may live in peace and look to the future with confidence,' Benedict said from a balcony as he greeted thousands of children who had gathered in the Plaza de la Paz, or Peace Square, in the central city of Guanajuato.
White doves were released from the balcony as the pope addressed a Mexican audience for the second time during his four-day trip, focussing on children.
'You have a very special place in the pope's heart, and in these moments, I would like all the children of Mexico to know this, especially those who have to bear the burden of suffering, abandonment, violence or hunger, which in recent months because of drought has made itself strongly felt in some regions,' the pope said in an address that was interrupted several times by the crowd.
He did not, however, refer to the sexual abuse cases that have shaken the Roman Catholic Church.
Benedict, who has met in other nations with victims of abuse by priests, was not expected to meet any in Mexico, where the scandal has mainly focussed on Marcial Maciel (1920-2008), founder of the conservative Roman Catholic order Legion of Christ.
The Vatican told Maciel to retire in 2006 after decades of unheeded allegations of abuse of students, including children. After his death at age 87, it became known that he also had two parallel families and three children despite his vow of celibacy.
Upon his arrival in the colonial city of Guanajuato, Benedict drove through its narrow streets in the popemobile, greeted by a crowd of several thousand people.
'We love you, Benedict!' members of the crowd shouted.
Mothers lifted their babies so they could get closer to the pontiff, and sick people in search of a blessing and thousands of others hoping for a glimpse of Benedict turned out.
Mexican and Vatican flags lined the pope's way, and church bells rang as he approached.
Before addressing the children, the pontiff had a private meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderon after the two men had come together to deliver public speeches a day earlier upon the pope's arrival in Mexico.
Upon his departure, Benedict again took to his trademark popemobile, brought in from Rome, for a longer drive of about 20 kilometres to greet his supporters.
On Friday, several hundred thousand people had lined 35 kilometres of roads and streets to welcome him on his way from the airport in Silao to Miraflores school in Leon in Guanajuato state. The pope 'really enjoyed this and was very impressed' by the start of his trip, his spokesman Federico Lombardi said in Leon.
Benedict had the feeling, Lombardi said, that he was building on the mission of his predecessor John Paul II, who was pope from 1978 to his death in 2005 and who visited Mexico five times.
Benedict had a relatively calm day Saturday as he sought to recover from the long flight of the previous day.
After attending a private Mass at the convent school where he is staying in Leon, Benedict, who is set to turn 85 next month, had several hours to himself so he could recover from the 14-hour flight from Rome.
During his stay in Mexico, which has the world's second-largest Roman Catholic population after Brazil, Benedict is to remain in the state of Guanajuato, where several million people were expected to turn out to see him.
The pontiff would skip Mexico City because of its high altitude of 2,240 metres, which the Vatican said is not good for his health.
The highlight of Benedict's stay in Mexico is to be an open-air Mass Sunday in Leon's Bicentennial Park at the foot of the mountain known as Cerro del Cubilete, topped by a large statue of Jesus Christ with his arms outstretched.
Mexican parishes have handed out 300,000 free tickets for the Mass, but authorities said they believe at least that many could show up without tickets to witness the event from nearby mountainsides.
Benedict is to depart Monday for Cuba for a stay of less than 48 hours, during which he plans to visit Santiago de Cuba and the capital, Havana. The pope was due back in Rome Thursday.
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