MEXICO CITY — Pope Francis will call for justice for victims of violence during his visit to Mexico and plead for a more humane treatment of migrants, the country’s archbishop said Thursday Jan. 28 in an interview with Agence France Presse news agency.
Cardinal Norberto Rivera told AFP that while Francis may not meet privately with the parents of 43 missing students whose case caused international outrage, he will address the plight of all victims during his February 12-17 visit.
The disappearance of the trainee teachers in 2014 was “a tragic event for Mexico. What happened was terrible and the families are still suffering, but the problem is not limited to 43,” Rivera said in an interview in his office when asked why such a meeting was not planned.
The archbishop noted that more than 26,000 people are reported missing in the country.
“I think that the (parents of the) 43 would have the right (for a private audience), but all of those who have loved ones missing also have the right for a message of hope, a message of justice,” the 73-year-old cardinal said.
“First of all, he will address those who are suffering from violence so that they don’t lose hope, so that they can keep demanding justice and truth,” he said.
“I think it’s very important that the pope come to ask that citizens and those who govern speak the truth.”
Vidulfo Rosales, an attorney representing parents of the 43 students, told AFP that they have requested an audience but have not received an answer and that it will be “very hard” to have a meeting.
Families of hundreds of other missing people have requested an audience as well.
But the secretary general of the Mexican Episcopal Conference, Eugenio Lira, said in December that it would be “difficult” for Francis to find time in his busy agenda.
But Lira said they could attend the pontiff’s final mass in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, where he will address victims of violence and the plight of migrants.
Turning to violence against priests, Rivera said that more than 50 have been killed in the past 25 years.
“Many priests continue to be affected by organized crime. Here in (Mexico City) at least 400 priests have suffered from extortion, threats, etcetera, because there are people who see priests as a symbol of values that they (the assailants) don’t want to see disseminated,” Rivera said.
– Humane migration –
In addition to Ciudad Juarez, Francis will visit Mexico City, the crime-plagued regions of Michoacan and Mexico State, and the impoverished southern state of Chiapas.
Mexico launched a crackdown against illegal migration at the Chiapas-Guatemala border region in 2014 following a crisis of unaccompanied child migrants who flooded into the United States that year. Human rights groups say the operation has led to human rights abuses.
“With his moral quality, the pope can touch many doors, many hearts, many powers in this world so that migration can be more humane,” said Rivera, whose parents migrated to the United States when he was a child.
“What we ask of the north (the United States), we must also offer in the south in the case of migration. It wouldn’t be wise for Mexico to demand respect and human rights for our compatriots and badly treat the migrants who come from the south,” he said.
In the wide-ranging interview, Rivera also defended the pope’s religious pardon in October of the ultra-conservative Legion of Christ movement, whose late Mexican-born founded Marcial Maciel stepped down in 2005 amid pedophilia allegations.
“The plenary indulgence is for all Christians who repent from their sins and who want to start a new life,” Rivera said. “I don’t understand why someone would want to exclude some people from God’s mercy.”
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