MEXICO CITY, JULY 31, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Arriving for his fifth visit to this predominantly Catholic country, John Paul II praised the Mexican people for their faithfulness.
“Mexico ever faithful!” the Holy Father exclaimed Tuesday, after landing in Mexico City’s International Airport, acknowledging President Vicente Fox’s words of welcome and expressing his “sentiments of affection and esteem for this people with their wealth of history and ancestral cultures.”
The Pope flew to Mexico in a Grupo TACA airliner nicknamed “Messenger of Hope.” He was received in the presidential hangar by some 2,600 people.
John Paul II had come from Guatemala following the canonization of Brother Pedro de San José de Betancur, Central America’s first recognized saint.
The Pope today will canonize Juan Diego, the Indian witness of the apparitions of Guadalupe, and on Thursday beatify Juan Bautista and Jacinto de los Angeles, two Indian martyrs of Oaxaca.
“Be holy!” he exhorted Mexico. “Serve God, the Church and the nation, each one assuming personal responsibility for passing on the Gospel message and witnessing to a faith that is alive and active in society.”
The Holy Father also greeted the thousands of youth gathered for a prayer vigil in the Plaza del Zocalo, Mexico City’s main square, who were watching the Pope’s arrival on large television screens.
“I tell them that the Pope is counting on them and asking them to be true friends of Jesus and witnesses of his Gospel,” John Paul II said.
The Pope added: “Dear Mexicans: Thank you for your hospitality, for your constant affection, for your fidelity to the Church.”
He concluded with a form of farewell used by Mexico’s past generations: “May God make you like Juan Diego!” A few seconds later, he repeated spontaneously: “Mexico ever faithful!”
The crowd responded by chanting, “Juan Pablo, hermano, ya eres mexicano” — John Paul, brother, you are already Mexican.
In his address, delivered shortly before, President Fox said that on this occasion the Pope was visiting “a democratic, plural country that is proud of its ethnic and cultural diversity.” But he also acknowledged the challenges that Mexico faces, such as poverty.
The president promised the Pope that his government is determined to achieve growth with a human face, in order to incorporate millions of marginalized families in development. “A real development based on equity and justice,” Fox said.
The Holy Father proceeded to the Apostolic Nunciature for the night. Crowds lined the 12-mile route John Paul planned to take between the airport and the nunciature. On Thursday, he will end the 97th international trip of his pontificate, which also took him to Canada and Guatemala.