Pope thanks Mexico for "unforgettable experiences"
Mar 26, 2012, 16:34 GMT
Silao, Mexico - Pope Benedict XVI bid farewell to Mexico Monday at the end of a four-day visit, as he headed to Cuba for the last leg of his trip.
'I leave full of unforgettable experiences, not the least of which are the innumerable courtesies and signs of affection which I have received,' Benedict said just before he boarded the plane that was to take him to Cuba.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon said goodbye to the German-born pontiff at Guanajuato International Airport in Silao.
'You have touched the hearts of Mexicans,' Calderon told his guest.
'I know that now millions of families in Mexico will redouble their efforts to live in accordance with the highest values,' he said.
The crowd gathered at the airport chanted slogans asking the pontiff to stay.
The pope left the Mexican faithful with a message that they should not be 'intimidated by the powers of evil.'
'I invite you to a common effort to renew society from the ground up, in order to attain a life of dignity, justice and peace for everyone,' he said.
On a morning when he was again treated to a rendition of the classic Mexican song Cielito Lindo, Benedict spoke of the meaning of the Spanish word for farewell.
'I say to you 'Adios!' in the traditional sense of this fine Hispanic expression: remain with God! Yes, 'Adios!'' he said.
Benedict, set to turn 85 next month, skipped Mexico City on his trip because its high altitude, 2,240 metres above sea level, might have affected his health. Instead, he remained in the central state of Guanajuato.
An estimated 640,000 turned out Sunday for the main event of his visit, an open-air mass near Silao in which Benedict highlighted 'the infinite mercy of the Lord, who does not wish the sinner to die but to convert and live.'
About 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 did not specifically refer to the violence but 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,' he said in Bicentennial Park, at the foot of the Cerro del Cubilete. '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.'
Benedict donned a mariachi hat as he drove past the crowd in his popemobile. The gesture reminded many of his predecessor John Paul II (1978-2005), who visited Mexico five times and also donned similar hats on several occasions.
'Benedict, brother, now you are a Mexican' became the favourite slogan of the pope's Mexican trip, as it was heard frequently since the pontiff arrived in the country Friday.
Benedict, to whom many observers have attributed a lack of charisma in comparison to John Paul II, appeared to share the enthusiasm of his audiences in Mexico, which has the world's second-largest Roman Catholic population after Brazil.
In a surprise Sunday night, he donned a white sombrero and left the convent school in Leon where he had been staying to listen to mariachi musicians play on the street.
'Never have I been received with such enthusiasm,' Benedict told jubilant supporters there. 'Now I can say that Mexico will always remain in my heart.'
Benedict's stay in Cuba is to last about 48 hours. He is to visit Santiago de Cuba and Havana. The pope was due back in Rome Thursday.
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