STORY: Pope Francis was officially welcomed by the Mexican first couple at a ceremony in Mexico City on Saturday (February 13).
From the U.S. border to the indigenous south, Pope Francis will visit some of the poorest and most violent corners of Mexico on his five-day trip and celebrates Mass on Saturday before an image of the country’s patroness, the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Beforehand, he had handed a gift by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and his wife, Angelica Rivera, at an official ceremony at Mexico’s government palace.
Chronic violence and corruption will be themes of his visit to the world’s second most populous Roman Catholic country, and he will address the plight of migrants trying to reach the United States with a service at the northern border next week.
Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to join the pope on Saturday afternoon at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, where pilgrims flock from all over Latin America.
Carrying pictures of the pope and the Virgin of Guadalupe, wrapped up against the winter chill, thousands converged on Mexico City’s historic center, where the pope is set to address the government at Nieto’s ceremonial palace.
The pope earlier this month urged Mexicans to fight against corruption and brutal drug gang violence. Some Mexicans are looking to him to take that even further while he’s there.
Mexico has been ravaged by drug violence over the past decade, and Nieto has been unable to fulfill his promises to put an end to it.
The pope flew into Mexico City on Friday evening for his first visit as leader of the Catholic Church, greeted by cheering crowds, a mariachi band and Nieto.
During his visit, the pope will say Mass with indigenous communities in Mexico’s poorest state Chiapas, and speak with young people in Morelia, the capital of Michoacan state that has been plagued by violence between drug gangs and armed vigilante groups.
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