On February 13, 2016, Pope Francis spoke to a crowd in the violent suburb of Ecatepec, in the vicinity of Mexico City. Among many other missions, his speech in this poor neighborhood was aimed at the corruption found within many levels of Mexican society. Before the large crowd of believers, he denounced the church for “succumbing to gossip and intrigue” and for their lack of presence in the drug trafficking crisis in Mexico City and the rest of the country.1 He claimed that bishops are living in luxury apartments and cutting deals with businesses and politicians instead of helping the millions of people in need of both spiritual and social assistance. Pope Francis is adamant about the church doing more to stop the dangerous and often fatal drug trade that has taken over families and neighborhoods, and has seen the murder of 12 priests in recent years.3
According to a scholar of the Mexican church, Roberto Blancarte, there has never been “a scolding so severe, so drastic, so brutal to any bishops group,” by the Pope. While Pope Francis may be drawing a hard line with complicated social issues, he has been well received by the President Enrique Peña Nieto, who officially invited the Pope to the National Palace, the first time in history for any Pope. Pope John Paul II had been invited to Mexico by the president but was never formally invited to the presidential palace. For the second largest Catholic population in the world, this papal visit is important on many levels, foremost was the Pope’s visit to the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the church of the patron saint of Mexico. While the Virgin of Guadalupe is an officially recognized saint in the Catholic church, her symbolic origins arise out of European and indigenous roots, giving it special importance to the people of Mexico, and making the Pope’s visit there unique in terms of his acceptance of various forms of Catholic worship.
Pope Francis’ social agenda in Mexico shows his desire to aid social problems specific to Latin American countries, two of which (Brazil and Mexico) hold the highest Catholic populations in the world. His speech in Ecatepec, a slum of 1.6 million, shows his willingness to meet with the people who revere him so much. Many are thankful that he not only acknowledges these social problems but that he speaks and acts directly on them. Along with his visit to Ecatepec, Pope Francis will also visit Chiapas, a poor and mostly indigenous state in the south to speak about poverty. He will also make stops in Morelia in the bloody state of Michoacan and Ciudad Juarez, near the US-Mexican border and plans to criticize recent anti-immigrant rhetoric in the US. Pope Francis, a fellow Latin American, is using his power to advocate for his fellow people, a large Catholic population that, in the past, has been overlooked by the Vatican. While his main mission in visiting Mexico was to address the corruption that has reached the church, he used his gravitas to shed light on a vast array of social issues in Mexico.
Malkin, Elisabeth. "Francis Admonishes Bishops in Mexico to ‘Begin Anew’."The New York Times. The New York Times, 13 Feb. 2016. Web. 18 Feb. 2016. Available At:http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/14/world/americas/francis-in-mexico-to-speak-for-the-powerless-is-greeted-with-pomp.html?ref=americas
Watson, Katy. "Pope Francis Makes Symbolic Trip to Troubled Mexico - BBC News." BBC News. N.p., 12 Feb. 2016. Web. 18 Feb. 2016. Available At:http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-35548602
"Pope Francis Urges Mexico to Vanquish Drugs Scourge - BBC News." BBC News. N.p., 14 Feb. 2016. Web. 18 Feb. 2016. Available At: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-35575820