Photo: Pope Arrives in Mexico
Yesterday morning, before boarding his flight for Mexico, Benedict XVI was greeted at Rome’s Fiumicino airport by Mario Monti, prime minister of Italy. Later, during the course of the journey, the Holy Father participated in the traditional in-flight press conference with the more than seventy journalists accompanying him on the plane. He answered questions on a wide range of subjects, from drug trafficking and violence in Mexico to the social situation in Cuba and new evangelization on the Latin American continent.
The Pope noted that his journey was taking him in the footsteps of John Paul II, who had made five visits to Mexico and one to Cuba, and that he hoped to continue the work begun by his predecessor. “I share the joys and hopes, but also the suffering and difficulties” of the Mexican people, he said. “I am going to bring encouragement but also to learn, to bring comfort in faith, hope and love; a commitment to goodness and to the struggle against evil. Let us hope that the Lord will help us”.
A Mexican journalist asked the Pope how the Church in Mexico can help to resolve the problem of drug trafficking, which has caused more than 50,000 deaths in the last five years. The Holy Father replied: “we are well aware of the beauty of Mexico, but also of this great problem of drug trafficking and violence. This is certainly a great responsibility for the Catholic Church in a country that is 80 per cent Catholic. We must do everything we can against this evil, which is so destructive of humanity and of our young people. The first thing is to announce God. God the judge. God Who loves us, but Who asks us to abide in goodness and truth, and to reject evil.
“Therefore, one great responsibility the Church has is to educate people to moral responsibility and to unmask evil, to unmask the idolatry of money which enslaves man. ... We must remember that men and women need the infinite. If there is no God, they replace Him by creating their own heavens, a seeming infinity which is really only a lie. This is why it is so important for God to be present and accessible. ... In this way the Church can unmask evil, making people aware of God’s goodness, His truth, authentic infinity. This is the great duty facing the Church”.
Another Mexican journalist pointed out that great social inequalities persist in Latin America and that the at times the Catholic Church is not sufficiently encouraged to intervene in this field.
“The Church must of course ask if she does enough for social justice on that great continent”, the Pope replied. “It is a question of conscience which we must always pose ourselves. ... What must the Church do? What can she not do? What must she not do? The Church is not a political power, she is not a party but a moral entity, a moral power. ... I reiterate what I have already said. The Church’s first concern is to educate minds in both individual and public ethics, thus creating the necessary sense of responsibility. Here perhaps there are some shortcomings. In Latin America, as elsewhere, no small number of Catholics show a kind of schizophrenia between individual and public morals. ... We must educate people to overcome this schizophrenia, educate them not only in ... individual morality, but also in public morality. This we must seek to do with the social doctrine of the Church because, of course, such public morality must be a reasonable morality, shared and shareable by non believers. We, of course, in the light of faith can better see many things that are also visible to reason, but it is faith which serves to liberate reason from the false interests that cloud it. Thus we must use social doctrine to create fundamental policy models, and so ... overcome these divisions”.
Another journalist recalled the words used by John Paul II on his trip to Cuba, “may Cuba open to the world and, and may the world open to Cuba”, and noted that many defenders of human rights had spoken out in anticipation of Benedict XVI’s visit to the island.
The Pope reiterated the continuity of his ideas with the words of John Paul II “which are still highly relevant”. The visit marked, he said, “the beginning of a journey of collaboration and constructive dialogue, a long journey which requires patience but which is moving forward. It is clear today that Marxist ideology as it was conceived no longer responds to reality. ... In order to build a new society new models must be discovered, patiently and constructively. In this process, which requires patience but also firmness, we wish to make our contribution in a spirit of dialogue, in order to avoid traumas and facilitate the way to a fraternal and just society for all people. Obviously, the Church is always on the side of freedom, freedom of conscience, freedom of religion. ... The faithful can also contribute to the progress of this journey”.
Finally the Holy Father responded to a question about new evangelization in Latin America, in the light of the Aparecida Conference.
“The path of new evangelization began with Vatican Council II. This was the fundamental intention of Blessed John XXIII, it was also emphasized by John Paul II and its importance in a world undergoing such great changes has become even more evident. The Gospel must be expressed in new was. ... There is a condition which exists throughout the world: secularization, the absence of God, the difficulty of seeing Him as a reality which concerns us. ... It is today, in the context of modern day rationality, that we can rediscover God as a fundamental guide for life, the fundamental hope for life, the foundation of the values upon which our society rests. ... I think it is very important to announce a God Who responds to our reason. ... However, we also have to take account of concrete reality. It is important to bear in mind that, in Latin America as a whole, religion is a question not of reason but of the heart. ... Yet this intuition of the heart must be linked to the rationality of faith, and to the profundity of faith that goes beyond reason. We must not lose the heart, but unite heart and reason, ... only in this way is the human being complete”.
Benedict XVI landed at the international airport of Guanajuato in the Mexican city of Leon, where he was greeted by Felipe Calderon Hinojosa, president of Mexico, and by Archbishop Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago of Leon. Also present were representatives of the civil authorities and the diplomatic corps, a number of Mexican prelates and thousands of faithful including a choir and a mariachi group who sang for the Pope.
Following the salute of the flag and the playing of the national anthems of Vatican City State and the United Mexican States, and after listening to an address by President Calderon Hinojosa, the Holy Father pronounced his first words on Mexican soil.
“I am very happy to be here”, he said, “and I give thanks to God for allowing me to realize the desire, kept in my heart for a long time; to confirm in the faith the People of God of this great nation in their own land. The affection of the Mexican people for the Successor of Peter, whom they always remember in their prayers, is well known. I say this here, considered to be the geographical centre of your land, which my venerable predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, wanted to visit during his first apostolic journey. Although he was not able to come, on that occasion he left a message of encouragement while flying over its airspace. I am happy to repeat his words here on land among you: “I am grateful”, he said in the message, “to the faithful of El Bajio and Guanajuato for your affection towards the Pope and your faithfulness to the Lord. May God be with you always””.
“With this brief visit, I wish to greet all Mexicans and to include all the nations and peoples of Latin America, represented here by many bishops. Our meeting in this place, where the majestic monument to Christ the King on Mount Cubilete, gives testimony to the deep roots of the Catholic faith among the Mexican people, who receive His constant blessings in all their vicissitudes.
“Mexico, and the majority of Latin American nations, have been commemorating in recent years the bicentennial of their independence. There have been many religious celebrations in thanksgiving to God for this important and significant moment. During these celebrations, as in the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Most Holy Mary was invoked fervently, she who gently showed how the Lord loves all people and gave Himself for them without distinction. Our Heavenly Mother has kept vigil over the faith of her children in the formation of these nations and she continues to do so today as new challenges present themselves.
“I come as a pilgrim of faith, of hope, and of love. I wish to confirm those who believe in Christ in their faith, by strengthening and encouraging them to revitalize their faith by listening to the Word of God, celebrating the Sacraments and living coherently. In this way, they will be able to share their faith with others as missionaries to their brothers and sisters and to act as a leaven in society, contributing to a respectful and peaceful coexistence based on the incomparable dignity of every human being, created by God, which no one has the right to forget or disregard. This dignity is expressed especially in the fundamental right to freedom of religion, in its full meaning and integrity.
“As a pilgrim of hope, I speak to them in the words of St. Paul: “But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope”. Confidence in God offers the certainty of meeting Him, of receiving His grace; the believer’s hope is based on this. And, aware of this, we strive to transform the present structures and events which are less than satisfactory and seem immovable or insurmountable, while also helping those who do not see meaning or a future in life. Yes, hope changes the practical existence of each man and woman in a real way. ... Moreover, when it takes root in a people, when it is shared, it shines as light that dispels the darkness which blinds and takes hold of us. This country and the entire continent are called to live their hope in God as a profound conviction, transforming it into an attitude of the heart and a practical commitment to walk together in the building of a better world”.
“Together with faith and hope, the believer in Christ - indeed the whole Church - lives and practises charity as an essential element of mission. In its primary meaning, charity “is first of all the simple response to immediate needs and specific situations”, as we help those who suffer from hunger, lack shelter, or are in need in some way in their life. Nobody is excluded on account of their origin or belief from this mission of the Church, which does not compete with other private or public initiatives. In fact, the Church willingly works with those who pursue the same ends. Nor does she have any aim other than doing good in an unselfish and respectful way to those in need, who often lack signs of authentic love”.
“In these days I will pray to the Lord and to Our Lady of Guadalupe for all of you so that you may be true to the faith which you have received and to its best traditions. I will pray especially for those in need, particularly for those who suffer because of old and new rivalries, resentments and all forms of violence. I know that I am in a country which is proud of its hospitality and wishes no one to feel unwelcome. I already knew this, and now I can see it and feel it in my heart. I sincerely hope that many Mexicans who live far from their homeland will feel the same way and that nothing will cause them to forget it or to lose the wish to see it growth in harmony and in authentic integral development”.
Having concluded his address, the Holy Father travelled by popemobile to Miraflores College where he spent the night.