Pope condemns drug trade's 'dealers of death' in Mexico

ECATEPEC, Mexico -- Pope Francis condemned the drug trade's "dealers of death" and urged Mexicans to shun the devil's lust for money as he led a huge open-air Mass for more than 300,000 people Sunday in this violence-riddled city.

See Full Article

"Let us get it into our heads: With the devil, there is no dialogue," the pope said at the biggest scheduled event of his five-day visit to Mexico.

Francis brought a message of encouragement on the second full day of his trip to residents of Ecatepec, a poverty-stricken Mexico City suburb of some 1.6 million people where drug violence, kidnappings and gangland-style killings, particularly of women, are a fact of life.

"He's coming to Ecatepec because we need him here," said Ignacia Godinez, a 56-year-old homemaker. "Kidnappings, robberies and drugs have all increased, and he is bringing comfort. His message will reach those who need it so that people know we, the good people, outnumber the bad."

In a clear reference to the drug lords who hold sway in the city's sprawling expanses of cinderblock slums, Francis focused his homily on the danger posed by the devil.

"Only the power of the word of God can defeat him," the pope said.

In a final prayer, he urged Mexicans to make their country into a land of opportunity "where there will be no need to emigrate in order to dream, no need to be exploited in order to work, no need to make the despair and poverty of many the opportunism of a few, a land that will not have to mourn men and women, young people and children who are destroyed at the hands of the dealers of death."

The faithful lined the pope's motorcade route to the huge field where the Mass took place, tossing flower petals as he passed by and cheering with pom-poms in the yellow and white of the Vatican flag.

Vendors sold T-shirts, plates with Francis' image on them, pins, bandanas and cardboard-cutout figures of the pope.

An estimated 100,000 people have been killed and 27,000 have disappeared in gangland violence since President Enrique Pena Nieto's predecessor launched an offensive against drug cartels shortly after taking office in late 2006.

At least 1,554 women have vanished in Mexico State since 2005, according to the National Observatory on Femicide, and last year the government issued an alert over the killings of women in Ecatepec and other parts of the state.

Nevertheless, women who came to see Francis said they felt safe, thanks in part to the huge security presence. The government assigned more than 10,000 police, soldiers and members of the presidential guard to protect the motorcade and Mass.

"I'm protected by my faith and the joy of seeing the pope up close," said Graciela Elizalde, 35, who arrived at the field Saturday evening and spent the night on the street, "and the thugs know that we the good people have come out to take the streets."

She added: "The pope is not going to change things, but at least he will touch the hearts of those who do harm and are trying to destroy the country. He is the 'messenger of peace' because that's exactly what Mexico needs, not just Ecatepec."

However, Maria de la Luz Estrada, co-ordinator of the National Observatory on Femicide, said she was disappointed that Francis didn't directly condemn violence against women or offer support to families of victims, saying that at the very least he could have made reference to discrimination against women.

"I still feel that he owes us these words," she said.

Conchita Tellez, 65, from the border city of Mexicali, held out hope that Francis can help ease the troubled soul of the country.

"The pope comes to Mexico at a very ugly moment," Tellez said, "and he comes to pray for us and for all those who lost hope and have submerged the country in blood and violence."

Francis' grueling schedule seemed to be taking a toll on him on Saturday, when the 79-year-old pontiff appeared to nod off at an evening Mass and also lost his balance and fell into a chair set up for him. He appeared much livelier Sunday, beaming and waving at the crowds along his route.

Francis' schedule Sunday included three popemobile motorcades and a visit to a pediatric hospital.

"The poor and the working people are here, and this pope prefers to talk to the humble," 62-year-old Petra Arqueta said.

Associated Press writers Peter Orsi and Maria Verza in Mexico City contributed to this report.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Librarian dies after brutal daytime beating in Ottawa

    Canada News CTV News
    A 59-year-old woman who was found clinging to life after a vicious beating at a Christian Science Reading Room in downtown Ottawa has died from her injuries, police say. There are currently no suspects in the brazen, daytime attack. Source
  • White NAACP leader who pretended to be black is charged with welfare fraud

    World News CBC News
    A former NAACP leader in Washington state whose life unravelled after she was exposed as a white woman pretending to be black has been charged with welfare fraud. Nkechi Diallo, known as Rachel Dolezal before she legally changed her name in 2016, was charged this week with theft by welfare fraud, perjury and false verification for public assistance, Spokane news station KHQ-TV reported Thursday. Source
  • Trudeau's decision to vote in Ontario election angers Quebec MP

    Canada News CBC News
    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's decision to vote in the upcoming Ontario provincial election while representing a Quebec riding federally has offended at least one Conservative MP from Quebec. The Prime Minister's Office confirmed Thursday that Trudeau would cast his ballot at the Ottawa-Vanier returning office. Source
  • Alberta Appeals Court bumps up award to 'Scud Stud' in defamation case

    Canada News CTV News
    CALGARY - A former war correspondent has been awarded another $200,000 in costs related to his years-long legal dispute with one of Canada's biggest media companies. Arthur Kent won a defamation suit two years ago against the company that is now Postmedia and its former columnist Don Martin. Source
  • Vehicle hits pedestrians in downtown Portland, Ore.

    World News CBC News
    Police were called to downtown Portland, Ore., on Friday to help what they said were "multiple patients" hurt in a hit-and-run incident. The Oregonian quoted witnesses as saying a blue vehicle, either a sedan or SUV, struck three people. A man told the newspaper he was then nearly struck as the driver "gunned the motor" and sped toward him. Source
  • Vehicle hits 3 pedestrians in downtown Portland, Ore.

    World News CBC News
    Police were called to downtown Portland, Ore., on Friday to help what they said were "multiple patients" hurt in a hit-and-run incident. The Oregonian quoted witnesses as saying a blue vehicle, either a sedan or SUV, struck three people. A man told the newspaper he was then nearly struck as the driver "gunned the motor" and sped toward him. Source
  • Trump administration pins target on B.C. wine sales

    Canada News CBC News
    The Trump administration has pinned a target on B.C.'s wine regulations, promising to escalate the ongoing trade dispute at the World Trade Organization. On Friday the administration issued notice it has requested that the WTO establish a dispute settlement panel to examine the "unfair regulations governing the sale of wine in grocery stores in the Canadian province of British Columbia. Source
  • A NAFTA deal is still possible this year, says Republican congressman

    Canada News CBC News
    Republican congressman Kevin Cramer says he thinks a new NAFTA deal is still possible before the current session of Congress winds up at the end of the year. Enough progress has been made during negotiations for the three NAFTA nations to find common ground to build an amended trade agreement, Rep. Source
  • Solo grad organizes own prom, raises $2,300 to pay for it

    Canada News CBC News
    Many would agree that they had to clear a few hurdles to get to the point of graduation. For Kimberley Reid of Change Islands, some of her biggest hurdles came with actually graduating. In a community of about 300 people, Reid was the lone graduate of A. Source
  • Trump's withdrawal from North Korea summit weakens optimism in South

    World News CBC News
    For weeks now — ever since TV pictures of a charming-looking Kim Jong-un captivated South Koreans — people have flocked to observation posts like the one at Odusan to peer, curiously, into North Korea. The raised platforms at this lookout 35 kilometres north of Seoul have become more crowded. Source