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Latin America

Pope Francis to embrace indigenous customs on Mexico visit

Pontiff tells leaders to make country a land “where you don’t have to emigrate to dream”

Mexico City / San Cristóbal de las Casas
The pope waves to a crowd in Ecatepec on Sunday.
The pope waves to a crowd in Ecatepec on Sunday. (AFP)

On the third day of his historic trip to Mexico, Pope Francis is scheduled to embrace the country’s indigenous minorities on a visit to one of its poorest states, Chiapas, where he will celebrate Mass according to local customs.

Monday’s visit to the cathedral in San Cristóbal de las Casas will be one of the highlights of the pope’s five-day Mexican tour. Francis is expected to visit the tomb of the late Bishop Samuel Ruiz (1924-2011), who once angered the Vatican by celebrating Mass according to local customs and in indigenous languages.

Thousands are expected to attend the pope’s Mass at a local sports arena. Afterward he will lunch with local bishops and representatives of Chiapas’ indigenous communities.

His visit to Ruiz’s tomb, a leftist bishop who demanded better treatment for Mexico’s poor indigenous peoples, is seen as an apology by the Catholic Church for its actions during the Spanish conquest of Latin America.

“Help make this blessed land of Mexico a land of opportunities, where there will be no need to emigrate in order to dream”

Pope Francis

According to the Vatican, the pope will present a decree officially authorizing local Church officials to celebrate Masses in the different indigenous languages spoken in Chiapas: Tzeltal, Tzotzil and Chol.

Since the 1990s, Chiapas has been a hot-spot of leftist activity in Mexico. It was here in 1994 that Subcomandante Marcos and his Zapatista rebels organized an uprising to demand greater indigenous rights and better treatment.

During an open-air Mass held on Sunday in Ecatepec, one of Mexico City’s poorest and most dangerous suburbs, the pope asked political leaders to make Mexico a land of opportunity “where there will be no need to emigrate in order to dream.”

Jorge Mario Bergoglio also repeated his previous day’s condemnations of corruption and the “traffickers of death.”

“Help make this blessed land of Mexico a land of opportunities, where there will be no need to emigrate in order to dream, no need to be exploited in order to work,” the pontiff said.

“He told the bishops exactly what we think of them – that they need to leave their churches and come help us”

Ecatepec resident Ludy Jiménez

With more than 1.6 million residents, Ecatepec has a long history of high crime. In just one decade, 2,318 young women were killed in this city in Mexico state where Enrique Peña Nieto presided as governor from 2005 to 2011 before he was elected president.

Mothers like Ludy Jiménez fear for their children on a daily basis.

“I know when my children are going out but I don’t know whether I will ever see them again,” she says.

“Every day there are holdups on the public transportation system with knives and guns. We try to get ahead, but neither the government supports us nor our church helps us. We are poor people living in a rich country.”

But Jiménez, who made a long hike in the cold to see the pope, welcomed the pontiff’s message to Mexican bishops on Saturday.

“He told them to their face exactly what we think of them – that they need to leave their churches and come help us. Throughout this whole difficult time when our daughters were disappearing and later being found chopped up in Los Remedios river, we have felt that the Church has abandoned us, made us orphans.”

English version by Martin Delfín.

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