SILAO, Mexico – Pope Benedict XVI urged Mexicans to wield their faith against drug violence, poverty and other ills, celebrating Sunday Mass before a sea of hushed worshippers beneath a blazing sun in the highlight of his Mexican visit.
Benedict delivered the message to an estimated 350,000 people in the shadow of the Christ the King monument, one of the most important symbols of Mexican Christianity, which recalls the 1920s Roman Catholic uprising against the anti-clerical laws that forbade public worship services such as the one Benedict celebrated.
The pope flew over the monument in a Mexican military helicopter en route to the Mass at Bicentennial Park, where he rode in the popemobile through the enthusiastic crowd.
Often seen as austere and reserved, Benedict charmed the cheering crowd by donning a broad-brimmed Mexican sombrero that he wore on his way to the altar at the sun-drenched park.
At this time when so many families are separated or forced to emigrate, when so many are suffering due to poverty, corruption, domestic violence, drug trafficking, the crisis of values and increased crime, we come to Mary in search of consolation, strength and hope, Benedict said in a prayer at the end of Mass.
The reference to Mary is particularly important for Mexicans, who revere the Virgin of Guadalupe as their patron saint, and he urged all of Latin America and the Caribbean to look to her for help.
She is the mother of the true God, who invites us to stay with faith and charity beneath her mantle, so as to overcome in this way all evil and to establish a more just and fraternal society.
Benedict had wanted to come to Guanajuato because it was one of the parts of Mexico that Pope John Paul II had never visited during his five trips as pope. In addition, Benedict wanted to bless the Christ the King statue.