Benedict XVI Heads for Cuba After Mission Accomplished in Mexico

Pilgrim of Peace Leaves a Nation Renewed

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By Kathleen Naab

GUANAJUATO, Mexico, MARCH 26, 2012 ( There is a status update circling among Mexican Facebookers today that announces the Pope was robbed during his four-day stay in Mexico. «We stole his heart,» goes the explanation.

Benedict XVI himself said as much Sunday night, when the sounds of a mariachi band and the lively enthusiasm that had characterized every moment since his plane landed Friday brought him to give brief off-the-cuff remarks in Italian, translated for the crowds by the apostolic nuncio

«I am very happy to be with you,» the Holy Father said to the cheering, singing multitude. «I have made many trips, but I have never been received with so much enthusiasm. I will carry with me, in my heart, the impressions from these days. Mexico will always be in my heart.»

Mexico’s response to the Holy Father perhaps surpassed the expectations set by some. Crowds at the Mass on Sunday morning numbered well over half a million, according to estimates. Over the course of the visit, thousands upon thousands spent hours lined up along the streets where the popemobile was to pass, just for a few-second glimpse of Christ’s Vicar. Any concern that Benedict XVI would not elicit the affection Mexicans showed for his predecessor — who visited the country five times — seemed forgotten.

Sunday night during the spontaneous conversation with the crowds, Benedict XVI told them, «I can say that for years now I have prayed every day for Mexico, but in the future, I will pray much more. Now I understand why Pope John Paul II said, ‘I feel that I am a Mexican Pope.'»

In response to the excitement, the Pontiff noted his regret at having to leave, «I am extremely happy,» he said. But, «forgive me if I must go, because tomorrow will be a demanding day.» The Bishop of Rome left his blessing, and departed the next morning for Cuba.

Faithful to yourselves

In a brief statement at the airport, Benedict XVI took a last opportunity to emphasize some of the weighty messages that he left with the people of Mexico during his stay: «I wish to reiterate clearly and with vigor a plea to the Mexican people to remain faithful to yourselves, not to let yourselves be intimidated by the powers of evil, but to be valiant and to work to ensure that the sap of your Christian roots may nourish your present and your future.»

He exhorted Mexicans «not to yield to a utilitarian mentality which always leads to the sacrifice of the weakest and most defenseless.»

According to Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, the trip met its goals.

The Pope’s last word to Mexico was, fittingly, «adios.»

«Dear Mexican friends, I say to you ‘Adios!’ in the traditional sense of this fine Hispanic expression: remain with God! Yes, ‘Adios!’; for ever in the love of Christ, in which we meet each other and will again meet with one another. May the Lord bless you and may Mary Most Holy protect you! Thank you!»

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