God wants sinners to convert, pope tells troubled Mexico
Mar 25, 2012, 19:25 GMT
Silao, Mexico - Pope Benedict XVI delivered a message of mercy as he addressed a massive crowd in an open-air mass near the central Mexican city of Silao on Sunday.
In what is regarded as the main event of his four-day trip to Mexico, the German-born Benedict said Mass before several hundred thousand people in the Bicentennial Park, at the foot of the Cerro del Cubilete. In his homily, he highlighted 'the infinite mercy of the Lord, who does not wish the sinner to die but to convert and live.'
Around 50,000 people have died in Mexico over the past five years in incidents linked to organized crime, as a wave of drug-related violence has ravaged the country. The pope, who did not specifically refer to such troubles, acknowledged these 'times of sorrow as well as hope.'
'When addressing the deeper dimension of personal and community life, human strategies will not suffice to save us. We must have recourse to the One who alone can give life in its fullness, because he is the essence of life and its author,' the pope told an eager crowd.
Mexican parishes handed out 300,000 free tickets for the Mass, but thousands more worshippers showed up without tickets to witness the event from nearby mountainsides.
A smiling Benedict donned a mariachi hat as he drove through the crowd before mass in his trademark popemobile, specially brought in from Rome. The gesture reminded many of his predecessor, the late pope John Paul II (1978-2005), who visited Mexico five times and also donned the hat on several occasions.
Signs with slogans like 'Benedict, welcome to your new home' were seen in the crowd, which gathered under intense sun and seemed to take the long wait in good humour. Some shed tears as they caught a glimpse of the pontiff.
The pope looked relaxed and happy throughout the event.
'Benedicto, hermano, ya eres mexicano' (Benedict, brother, now you are a Mexican), which has become the favourite slogan of the pope's Mexican trip, was again heard frequently, as it has been since the pontiff arrived in the country Friday.
Earlier, Benedict flew in a Mexican military helicopter over a giant statue of Christ with arms outstretched, at the top of the Cerro del Cubilete.
The 20-metre statue of Christ, said to be the world's largest made in bronze, rises 2,579 metres above sea level. Later Sunday, Benedict was to press a button to illuminate the monument from the nearby city of Leon.
'(The lights) will remain as a permanent symbol for the people of Guanajuato and of Mexico,' Guanajuato Governor Juan Manuel Oliva Ramirez told dpa in a recent interview.
The statue was erected at the end of the Cristero War (1926-29), in which thousands rose against the anti-clerical provisos of the 1910 Mexican Revolution. The war claimed thousands of lives.
Later Sunday, Benedict was to say Evensong with Latin American bishops at Leon cathedral.
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.
The pontiff is to skip Mexico City because of its high altitude of 2,240 metres.
Benedict, to whom many observers have attributed a lack of charisma in comparison to his predecessor John Paul II, appeared to be joining in with the enthusiasm of his Mexican audiences. Since he arrived in the country, he has scraped minutes off his closely-monitored agenda to greet and bless the sick and to hold babies.
On Saturday, Benedict met with victims of gang violence, the president's office said Sunday. The meeting took place at the initiative of Mexican President Felipe Calderon, as the two men got together in the central city of Guanajuato.
Benedict spoke to the families of civilians, public officials and security force members killed because of fighting amongst the country's powerful gangs.
Calderon and the pope agreed that the proliferation of weapons had promoted organized crime, the president's office said.
Benedict is to leave 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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