Pope Francis met with Mexican prisoners in Ciudad Juárez during the final leg of his five-day visit to Mexico.
Inmates had spiffed up the facility ahead of the pope’s arrival, painting and removing trash. They—men and women—wore identical uniforms emblazoned with the name of the prison.
During a visit with some 700 inmates, Francis said although they cannot undo the past, they can work towards writing a new story and moving forward.
He told them to use their experiences to help “put end to this cycle of violence and exclusion.”
Prison visits are a regular custom of the pope when he travels outside Vatican City.
Later, after riding through a huge crowd at the border in his popemobile, Francis paused behind a stage and then re-emerged, still in the vehicle. He was driven to the memorial that had been built for those who have died along the border. Slowly, he walked up the ramp toward the great cross now rising beside the Rio Grande. At the top, he crossed himself and prayed. Then he stood alone for a few moments before taking a bouquet of flowers and placing them on a small table before the cross.
What might have been most amazing was the silence. On the Mexican side, more than 200,000 people watched in complete quiet. On the American side, border agents peered through the fence with binoculars, usually used to look for immigrants sneaking over, but today simply for a better view of Francis saying a prayer precisely for those same immigrants.
Francis wanted a powerful image, and he got one. He wanted to commemorate the dead and offer a reminder of the families who are separated. It took maybe two or three minutes.
And then came the long expected Mass in Ciudad Juarez, just feet away from the U.S. border, and during this act, we can just say that Pope Francis stopped short of directly calling for the United States government to “open its borders”.
On the other hand, Francis invited Juarez residents, long crippled by violence and inequality, to “dream in Mexico” and to work toward building a nation where there are “no first, second, or fourth class of citizens, but for a Mexico that recognizes in one another the dignity of being a child of God.”
He asked “What does Mexico want to leave its children? Does it want to leave a memory of exploitation, of low salaries, labor exploitation, or does it want to leave a memory of dignified work?
Finally, Pope Francis urged the world to put a human face on the “tragedy that is forced migration” and recognize the plight of people who risk their lives to flee violence, extortion and poverty at home, the Associated Press reported.
He urged people to have “open hearts” and called for “No more death. No more exploitation,”
At last, Pope Francis thanked Mexicans for their hospitality during his trip throughout the country and tried to reassure them that even if times seem dark, there are lights of hope.
The pontiff says at times he “felt like weeping from seeing so much hope in a people that is suffering so much.” He adds that there are many men and women working to ensure that “this Mexican society does not remain in darkness.” Francis’ appearance in the border city of Ciudad Juarez wraps up a five-day visit during which he repeatedly condemned the violence, corruption and poverty that tear apart many Mexican communities.
- NBC News
- El Paso Times
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