Pope Francis visited Mexico’s poorest and most dangerous city, Ecatepec where he was welcomed by thousands.
Despite the desperate conditions of the city, the Pope sees hope and urges Mexicans to make their country a land of opportunities.
“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 pope said
A land, he added, “that will not have to mourn men and women, young people and children who are destroyed at the hands of the dealers of death.”
Addressing more than 300,000 people, the Pope expressed his disappointment in the country’s elite.
“That wealth which tastes of pain, bitterness and suffering, this is the bread that a corrupt family or society gives its own children,” the pope said at the Mass
Ecatepec has seen a rise in women murder and gang wars over the years. Murder rate in the city has risen to the highest in the country.
Mexico holds extremes with regard to distribution of wealth with some of the world’s richest people being the Mexicans, and on the other hand, majority of the population suffering from unemployment and drug mafia. Many of the Mexican elite are stained with corruption.
The pope warned Mexicans not to succumb to evil: “You cannot dialogue with the devil because he will always win,” he told them.
After the mass, he went to a children’s hospital in Mexico City where guests included some of Mexico’s most rich, among them the son of communications tycoon Carlos Slim, one of the wealthiest people on the planet and a patron of the hospital.
At the medical center, with President Enrique Peña Nieto’s wife, Angelica Rivera, as host, the pope embraced sick and wheelchair-bound children, some who gave him drawings or cried.
The pope bent down and kissed dozens of sick kids gathered for his visit, playfully mussing the hair of the older ones and stopping to chat with those who wanted to. Some posed for selfies with the pope. Several rose from their wheelchairs to embrace him.
Francis also played doctor, giving a little boy some medicine from a dropper.
Catholicism has been at a decline in Mexico due to the increasing number of Evangelicals. In 1970, 96 percent of
Mexicans claimed to be Catholic, but according to a 2010 Mexican national census, that figure has dropped to less than 85 percent.
“The work of the evangelical Christian church in evangelism has been successful in past few decades. Many have come to hear a different message that brings peace, harmony, blessing, and salvation to human beings,” Pastor Benjamin Lomeli of Iglesia El Buen explained.
Other reasons Mexicans have left Catholicism include evangelical outreach and the tarnished image of the Catholic Church.
Sara Granados is among those who have left the faith. She was born into a devout Catholic family, and by 17 she had already fulfilled all the required religious rites. But soon she realized that wasn’t getting her closer to God.
“After 17 years old, I still had emptiness in my heart,” Sara explained. “I had no desire to live and for me, it was better to die than to live. A friend of my mother told me, ‘I’m taking you to this place.’ She never mentioned church, but she brought me to church. That day the pastor was preaching and he said a word that touched my heart.”