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The Pope Tells Mexicans to Open Their Eyes to Injustice

Pope Francis has had some harsh words for Mexico's political and church establishment in the first two days of his six-day visit to the world's second most populous country that is beset by social and security woes.
Imagen por Alessandro di Meo/EPA

During a mass held in front of hundreds of thousands and broadcast live on national TV, Pope Francis underlined the central theme of his visit to Mexico so far — the link between the abuse of power and the social ills and security crisis currently facing the country.

"It is time to open our eyes in the face of so many injustices that directly attack the dream and project of God," the Pope said, while also denouncing "a society of the few, and for the few."


The Pope also highlighted what he called the appropriation of wealth "that should belong to everybody" or "from the sweat of another, or even in exchange for their life."

This ended up, he said, producing "bread that tastes of pain, bitterness, and suffering," and that this was the bread that "a corrupt society or family gives to its children."

The mass was held in the sprawling suburb of Ecatepec just north of the capital, which in recent years has been ravaged by gangland violence between factions of several of Mexico's major cartels. It also has one of the highest incidences of murders of women in the country.

Even without crime, life is tough in Ecatepec thanks to patchy services in everything from inadequate drainage to sub-standard schools, as well as extreme environmental degradation, and the four hours many spend traveling to and from low-paid jobs in the capital every day.

Related: Pope Francis Touches Down in Mexico Today, But John Paul II Still Gets All the Love

As well as his pointed comments about the elite, the Pope's homily also urged ordinary Mexicans not to fall into the trap of pursuing money, fame, and power.

"These are temptations that seek to degrade and destroy," he said, in what might have been a message to the downtrodden throughout the country who are tempted into violent crime by the hope of bettering their position. "Never enter into dialogue," with the devil, he instructed, "because he always wins."


The mass in Ecatepec was the biggest single event in the Pope's six-day visit to Mexico that began on Friday night.

The government created a celebratory TV moment out of his arrival with President Enrique Peña Nieto and his telenovela star wife Angélica Rivera welcoming Francis off his plane as a smiling choir dressed in white sung a pop song. The invited audience, that included several TV celebrities, were instructed to wave around their mobile phone lights.

Things became rather less comfortable for the establishment on Saturday.

This began with the Pope's direct references to the litany of problems facing Mexico during the short speech he made at the formal welcome ceremony held at the National Palace in the center of Mexico City, and attended by the president and other political leaders.

"Experience shows us that whenever we seek a road to privilege or for the good of a few but the detriment of many, sooner or later social life becomes fertile ground for corruption, drug trafficking, the exclusion of different cultures, violence, people trafficking, kidnapping, and death," he said. "This causes suffering and obstructs development."

At the end of the day the Pope also included a reference to the country' disappeared during mass at the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe. There are an estimated 27,000 people disappeared in Mexico, as well as the more than 100,000 people believed to have been killed in drug war related violence.


Related: A Narco-Saint, a Death Cult, and a Lost-Cause Apostle Await the Pope in Mexico

Perhaps the hardest-hitting speech so far, however, was the Pope's ticking off of church leaders gathered to hear him in the Cathedral, also on Saturday.

"Don't underestimate the ethical and civic challenge that drug trafficking represents for young people and for Mexican society," he lectured, making it clear that he thought the Mexican church hierarchy had done just that. "Don't let yourselves be corrupted by trivial materialism, or the seductive illusion of deals made below the table."

The Pope also berated "coldness" and "distance" in the face of the population's suffering, and urged the bishops to be more transparent.  At one point he went off script and appeared to confirm reports of intense palace intrigue ahead of his visit. "Fight if you have to fight," he said, "But do it like men, face to face."

The Pope — who has looked tired at times during his packed schedule that includes long drives stranding in his popemobile through streets lined with Mexicans wanting to catch a glimpse of him — is due to begin the second leg of his visit on Monday, heading for three different states with their own acute problems.

Related: Pope Francis's Mexico Visit Could Help Fuel Zika Outbreak

Follow Jo Tuckman on Twitter: @jotuckman