Pope Francis went to Mexico, he said, as a “missionary of mercy and of peace but also as a son who wishes to pay homage to his mother, the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe, and place himself under her watchful care” (Meeting with Authorities at National Palace in Mexico City, Feb. 13, 2016) and that he did. His message – not just what he said, but more so, where he went, who he met with and what he did – was constantly one that reminded us of God’s mercy. He did not stay very long in Mexico City, but went to the peripheries – 5 different locations in 5 days – and made a point to spend time with the young, the old, families, indigenous people, labour leaders, those living in impoverished and drug and crime-ridden neighbourhoods, and those in prison. He spoke about corruption and about the dignity of work; he spoke about throwaway attitudes and wealth; he spoke about dreams and hope. His last words before he left were, “Thanks to Our Lord for having granted me this visit to Mexico, which always surprises, for Mexico is a surprise!” (Farewell Address in Juarez, Feb. 17, 2016)In many ways, this was a typical Francis apostolic visit, but there were some surprises.
I had the chance to cover this visit for Salt + Light with Alicia Ambrosio. It was a whirlwind 6 days. Over the next three days, I’d like to share with you what stood out most for me.
The Wealth of this Land
Pope Francis began his visit by telling Mexican President, Enrique Peña Nieto (who is 49 years-old) and other government leaders that “Mexico’s principal richness today has a young face; yes, this richness is your young people.” (Meeting with Authorities at National Palace in Mexico City, Feb. 13, 2016)
On Feb 16th, he had a special gathering – akin to an Olympic Opening Ceremony or perhaps a mini Mexican Youth Day – with young people in Morelia. He began by saying to them “you are the wealth of this land.” He did acknowledge that this wealth is not recognized, sometimes by the youth themselves. He asked everyone to answer in the quiet of their own hearts, “Is it true that not everything is lost?” “Am I lost?” “Do I have worth?” “Am I worth a little, a lot?”
The next day he told representatives of the World of Labor that,
“One of the greatest scourges for young people is the lack of opportunities for study and for sustainable and profitable work, which would permit them to work for the future. In many cases – many cases – this lack of opportunity leads to situations of poverty and rejection. This poverty and rejection then becomes the best breeding ground for the young to fall into the cycle of drug trafficking and violence.”
He finished by telling these labor leaders:
“It is always good to think about what I would like to leave my children; it is also a good way to think of others’ children. Do you want to leave them the memory of exploitation, of insufficient pay, of workplace harassment, of trafficking in slave labour? Or do you want to leave them a culture which recalls dignified labour, proper lodging, and land to be worked?” (Address to World of Labor in Juarez, Feb. 17, 2016)
The Wonder of Walking Together
At the gathering with youth Pope Francis responded to Roberto, a young man who had spoken earlier in the program.
“You spoke about losing something and yet you did not say: ‘I lost my cell phone, I lost my wallet with money in it, I lost the train because I was late’. We have lost the wonder of walking together, we have lost the delight of dreaming together, so that this wealth, moved by hope, can take us forward; we need to walk together, we need to meet, and we need to dream. Do not lose the fascinating power of dreaming! Have the courage to dream” (Address during Meeting with Youth in Morelia, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016)
To the Indigenous communities in Chiapas, he said,
“In many ways there have been attempts to silence and dull this yearning, and in many ways there have been efforts to anaesthetize our soul, and in many ways there have been endeavours to subdue and lull our children and young people into a kind of lassitude by suggesting that nothing can change, that their dreams can never come true.” (Homily during Mass with Indigenous Communities in Chiapas, Feb. 15, 2016)
And to labour leaders he said, “This world does sometimes take away our ability to dream, our ability to be grateful. When a young boys or girls only see their parents at weekends because the latter set off very early to work and then return late at night during the week, this is what we mean by a throwaway culture. I want to invite you to dream, to dream of a Mexico where a father and mother can have time to play with their children (…) I invite you to dream in a Mexico that your children deserve; a Mexico where no one is first, second, or fourth; a Mexico where each sees in the other the dignity of a child of God.” (Address to World of Labor in Juarez, Feb. 17, 2016)
This is not the first time Pope Francis encourages us to dream. He said the same thing to young people in Cuba. But to priests, deacons, seminarians and men and women religious, he summed up the challenged in one word: resignation.
“A resignation which paralyzes us and prevents us not only from walking, but also from making the journey; a resignation which not only terrifies us, but which also entrenches us in our “sacristies” and false securities; a resignation which not only prevents us from proclaiming, but also inhibits our giving praise. A resignation which not only hinders our looking to the future, but also thwarts our desire to take risks and to change.” (Homily during Mass with Religious in Morelia, Feb. 16, 2016)
At the Angelus Address in Ecatepec he exhorted this change,
“I invite you once again today to be on the front line, to be first in all the initiatives which 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, no need to make the despair and poverty of many the opportunism of a few, a land that will not have to mourn men and women, young people and children who are destroyed at the hands of the dealers of death.” (Angelus Address in Ecatepec, Feb. 14, 2016)
Indeed, youth are not only the wealth of Mexico but also the wealth of the Church; we must all recognize this. In his farewell address, Pope Francis said,
“Many men and women lining the streets as I went by, lifted up their children, showing them to me: they are the future of Mexico, let us look after them, let us love them. These children are tomorrow’s prophets, they are the sign of a new dawn.” (Farewell Address in Juarez, Feb. 17, 2016)
However, Mexico’s future faces many threats. Come back tomorrow and see what Pope Francis had to say about violence and corruption.
photo credit: Pope Francis greets girls in traditional dress during a meeting with young people at the Jose Maria Morelos Pavon Stadium in Morelia, Mexico, Feb. 16. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:firstname.lastname@example.org