On February 12, Pope Francis will embark on a 6-day tour of Mexico, visiting 6 cities. On this trip, the Holy Father is expected to speak about several issues that he has focused on throughout his papacy—economic justice, drug-related violence, the rights of indigenous peoples, and immigration. His visit includes a cross-border Mass in Cuidad Juárez, on the U.S.–Mexico border, and coincides with the start of the primary season in the U.S., where immigration issues have been divisive and our leaders have failed to address immigration reform effectively or with compassion for the struggles undocumented immigrants face.
Pope Francis announced his travel plans on Our Lady’s feast day, December 12, and he will make a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the country’s patron saint, where he will offer Mass. Referencing the Jubilee of Mercy as the focus for the coming year, he said, “To her we ask that this jubilee year becomes a sowing of merciful love in the heart of the people, families, and nations. That we become merciful, and that the Christian communities learn to be an oasis and a source of mercy.”
Starting in Mexico City (where he will stay, making day-trips to other destinations), Pope Francis will meet with President Enrique Peña Nieto, address government leaders and Catholic bishops, and visit a pediatric hospital. In San Cristóbal de Las Casas, close to the Mexican-Guatemala border, he will celebrate Mass, meet with community leaders among the large indigenous population and then gather with local families in a stadium there. In Morelia, where drug-related violence is rampant, the Pope will meet with youth groups and conduct a Mass.
In Ciudad Juárez, another site of violence where drug-related murders have claimed the lives of tens of thousands, Pope Francis is expected to address this brutality as well as to speak about the plight of migrants and refugees. As Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, the neighbor city of Juárez, points out, “Pope Francis’s visit will undoubtedly call attention to the many realities that are lived on both sides of the U.S.–Mexico border, particularly the plight of so many migrants and refugees fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries, in search of better lives for themselves and their children.” While in Juárez, the Pope will visit a prison, meet with workers, and offer Mass in the Benito Juárez Stadium, a venue that holds 220,000 people.
Mexico, a country with the second largest Catholic population (92%, according to Vatican statistics), is an apt destination for the pontiff on this, his twelfth trip outside Italy and fourth to Latin America. His visit will draw critical attention to issues of drug-related violence, social justice and immigration reform. Wherever he goes, his itineraries and speeches address the most urgent concerns for Catholics and people of conscience—how to help those most in need—and he continues to be one of the world’s greatest champions of human rights.