As I am about to post, the Pope is about to start his final day in Mexico, traveling from Mexico City to Ciudad Juarez, just across the U.S. border from El Paso, Texas. You will be able to watch it on EWTN, either on TV or online at ewtn.com.
In the following stories, you will find a look back at Pope Francis’ days in Mexico through the eyes of papal spokesman and head of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, a profile of the final papal stop, Ciudad Juarez, and a look at a group of 12 nuns, Las Siervas (The Servants) whose singing has become an Internet sensation. They will be singing in Ciudad Juarez.
VATICAN SPOKESMAN: POPE FRANCIS “A MESSENGER OF MERCY AND PEACE”
(Vatican Radio) On the last day of his pastoral visit to Mexico, Pope Francis on Wednesday visits inmates at a prison in Ciudad Juarez on the U.S.-Mexico border. Before heading back to Rome Wednesday evening, he will also meet people from the working world and celebrate Mass in the city located just across the border from El Paso, Texas. On Tuesday, the Holy Father visited Morelia in central Mexico where he celebrated Mass with religious, consecrated people and seminarians and later was greeted by tens of thousands of young people at the local stadium.
Holy See Press Office Director, Fr. Federico Lombardi says the Pope has come to Mexico as “a messenger of mercy and of peace.” Even through his gestures and small actions, the Pope “was teaching love and demonstrating love and mercy of God… not only through his words,” adds Fr. Lombardi. In this way, he said, the Pope “has contributed very much to the harmony and reconciliation of a society that has dramatic tensions and problems with violence and internal conflicts and disparities of situations in the society.”
In an interview with Vatican Radio’s Veronica Scarisbrick, Fr. Lombardi notes that Pope Francis has made his mark in Mexico “in a very pastoral way, not as a politician, not as a person who comes with easy solutions for problems that are so incredibly difficult. But he demonstrates understanding for the situation, for the people and the temptations that they have: [the] discouragement [they feel] in this situation. And he encourages them, and he witnesses the love of God, and invites [them] to the profound devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe that is in the heart of Mexicans.”
Pope challenges Mexicans to put love, hope into practice
Pope Francis has also been challenging Mexicans to embrace this witness concretely, in their own lives, in their families and in society, Fr. Lombardi affirms. “I think he leaves to the Mexican people a treasure of hope – a horizon of hope for the future.” It was this message that the Pope stressed in a particular way to the young people he encountered, “because they are the majority of the society and the future is concretely in their hands even if they have difficulties [in finding] their way in this society.”
Fr. Lombardi observes that one of the things that has impressed Pope Francis the most on this trip is “the love of the people [on the streets] for him.” For the Pope, theirs is a gratuitous, freely-given love: “they come to demonstrate spontaneously in the street to demonstrate sincerely that they love the Pope, the Church. That they desire to be a community which hopes [for] a better situation.” Pope Francis, Fr. Lombardi adds, is “grateful for the witness of love that he has received and he has tried to give his contribution to [the Mexican people] to overcome this historical, difficult moment.”
Fr. Lombardi admits that he personally found two moments of the trip particularly moving: “the silent dialogue between the Pope and the Virgin of Guadalupe” in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the end of Saturday’s Mass in Mexico City. And the moment during Monday’s meeting with families in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, when a severely disabled child in a wheelchair was brought towards the Pope. The episode, Fr. Lombardi remarks, reminded him of the Gospel story “in which the people bring the paralytic to Jesus: the Pope has seen this and then came down from the podium to encounter this child and to bless him…. It was a very particular moment: the witness of faith of the people bringing this sick young man to the Pope and the love of the Pope” who interrupted the testimonials of families “to go down where he sees this desire of blessing for a person that was in very, very particularly grave sickness.”
A PROFILE OF CIUDAD JUAREZ, LAST PAPAL STOP IN MEXICO
(Vatican Radio) This evening Pope Francis will celebrate Holy Mass in Ciudad Juarez at the end of his six-day stay in Mexico. But in the morning his first appointment will be at the Cereso 3 State prison in the city that used to be a hotspot of gang power.
Our correspondent in Mexico Veronica Scarisbrick tells us more.
For many years now Ciudad Juarez has represented first for Mexicans and then for Central Americans a personal dream, that of crossing the border to reach ‘El Norte’, the United States.
This search for a better future for most has often become a dashed dream. For those who make it here crossing the border is often impossible, for those without papers the risk of falling into the hands of traffickers is even greater.
Just imagine for a moment the state of mind of migrant minors who reach this desolate place, dubbed until not so long ago the murder capital of the world. A place notorious for the unsolved murders of hundreds of women and rife with all kinds of violence, much of it gang and drug based.
Located in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert, it’s Mexico alright but without a crumb of glamour. There’s a river that provides a natural physical divide, and a looming chain link fence divide.
And it’s by this chain link fence that Pope Francis will celebrate Holy Mass on the evening of Wednesday 17th of February at the end of his six day stay in Mexico. Right on the border with the United States, so near that it’s within earshot of the El Paso inhabitants on the other side of the fence.
Pope Francis flies in to Ciudad Juarez in the morning and his first appointment is at the Cereso 3 State prison that used to be a hotspot of gang power.
Officials with the diocese say 800 inmates have already been chosen for that special meeting with Pope Francis, half of them women. On this occasion he will also meet with family members.
Ciudad Juarez is not a place for the faint hearted but it seems that when Pope Francis arrives here the worst of the bloodshed of this once hell hole has been left behind.
Certainly during this Jubilee Year of Mercy it will give Pope Francis a chance to console prisoners, workers, and the inhabitants of this long suffering Mexican City.
Inhabitants many of whom have been orphaned, widowed or simply traumatized by the violence they’ve witnessed.
INTERNET SENSATION NUNS TO SING FOR POPE FRANCIS
Here’s a great story from Mexico City by CNN: A group of pop-singing nuns will perform before Pope Francis on Wednesday, thanks in part to a viral video that made them an overnight sensation. “Siervas” or “The Servants,” took the Internet by storm late last year after the band posted a music video to YouTube.
The clip, “Confía en Dios” or “Trust in God,” has been viewed more than 270,000 times. It shows the 12 sisters playing classical and rock instruments, and singing their catchy tune in their religious robes on top of a rooftop helipad.
“We posted our video online only a few months ago and couldn’t believe how popular it became,” Sister Monica, one of the group’s leaders told CNN. “A Mexican priest watched it and messaged us saying, ‘Come to Mexico,’ so we did.”
The Peru-based nuns are scheduled to perform in the city of Juarez, the final stop in the Vatican leader’s Mexican tour. They will be the warm-up act before his last Mass of the trip.
The group’s unique blend of rock instruments and religious hymns has made them popular among Catholics and non-Catholics alike, with nearly 30,000 followers on Facebook.
For Sister Cindy, the band’s standup bass player, the trip is a dream come true. “I went to the Brazil [in 2013] during the Pope’s trip there and got to see him in the popemobile, but never dreamed I would actually get to play for him,” she said. “Words cannot begin to express how overwhelmed I am.”
In addition to playing in Juarez, Siervas will have gigs in Mexico City, Chihuahua and San Juan del Rio.
The sisters are hoping their online success will help transmit their faith to a wider audience.
“The Lord is always present in our lives, even in the tough times,” said Sister Andrea, who is originally from Argentina. “I think our video brings a very universal message that people connect to.”
The international ensemble, which has been together for a little over a year, includes members from China, Japan, Ecuador and Chile, among others.
Despite the group’s diversity, they all speak the same language when singing in unison and expressing their “Trust in God.”
“Our faith speaks volumes,” Sister Cindy said. “That is what we are hoping to transmit to Pope Francis and to young people around the world.”