Among the 640,000 people attending the Mass celebrated Sunday by Pope Benedict XVI in the Parque Guanajuato Bicentenario in Silao were the four Mexican candidates for the presidency of the world’s second-largest Catholic country.
On July 1 Mexicans will go to the polls to select one of the four candidates, and much is at stake in the election, but on Sunday they gathered together in peace and, as good Catholics, listened to the homily pronounced by the pontiff.
The four included the ruling conservative National Action Party’s Josefina Vazquez Mota; Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD; Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI; and Gabriel Quadri of the minority New Alliance Party, or PANAL, who posted on Twitter several messages about attending the Mass.
All four said in brief remarks to the press after the Mass that the pope’s message was one of reconciliation and of unity.
Benedict XVI warned against “superficial and routine, at times fragmentary and incoherent” faith, and he exhorted Christians not to give in to that temptation and overcome “the weariness” of faith.
Before the huge and attentive crowd in the central state of Guanajuato, the pope also urged that human life in all its stages be “respected, defended and promoted,” that is to say, from the moment of conception until death.
Benedict XVI also emphasized the need for a new evangelization of Latin America, where he noted a “weariness” of faith and stated that it is necessary to recover the “joy of being a Christian” to deal with the advance of secularization and the widening social penetration of various sects.
The pontiff wanted to give a Latin American character to this Mass and his remarks at it, given that many countries in the hemisphere recently have celebrated their bicentennials since independence, including Mexico.
Among those attending the Mass were 250 cardinals and bishops, the presidents of 22 bishops’ conferences from Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as prelates from the United States and Canada.
Despite the heat of the day, the Bishop of Rome toured the area in the so-called Popemobile to resounding applause, cheers and chants by the crowd. Later, the pontiff was scheduled to meet with bishops from all over the hemisphere, the last act of his three-day visit to Mexico before departing for Cuba on Monday.
The 84-year-old pope arrived Friday in the central city of Leon, the first stop on his five-day visit to Mexico and Cuba.
Following his visit to central Mexico, the pope will fly to Cuba on Monday to visit the cities of Santiago and Havana.
The pope is making his second journey to Latin America - the first was a 2007 trip to Brazil - and his first to Spanish-speaking countries in the region.
Benedict’s visit to Mexico is the sixth papal trip to that country after the five that Pope John Paul II made in 1979, 1990, 1993, 1999 and 2002.