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A river of lights

· Mexico celebrates ·

The festivities organized for Francis’ arrival at the airport in Mexico City Friday evening, 12 February, amounted to a veritable festival, with dancing lights, coloured flags, musical groups in traditional costume, singing, dancing and cheering. Outside the presidential hangar, where the welcoming ceremony was held, was a true stadium atmosphere, equipped with enormous stands overflowing with people.

Over 5,000 expressed their warmth and affection to their guest, who could not help but feel it. The Mexican people have welcomed two other Popes in the last 37 years: John Paul II – who visited five times – and Benedict XVI in 2012. It was a celebration every time. But the arrival of Francis had a different flavour. It could not be otherwise for a Latin American Pope. He is one of them, and this alone makes it a special visit. Thus, the welcome could not be anything but special.

The climate of expectation was such that the people began to sing and cheer as soon as the papal plane landed, shortly after 7 pm. The enthusiasm grew when the door opened in anticipation of the appearance of the white silhouette. The moment he emerged at the top of the stairs Francis was inundated by a boisterous greeting. It was all in perfect Latin American style. The enthusiasm certainly did not escape the Pontiff, who just as warmly returned the greeting.

Along the 20 miles from the airport to the Nunciature, Francis was given another demonstration of the welcome he will receive from the Mexican people in the coming days. The streets were transformed into a luminous corridor, an endless river of lights – flash lights and mobile phones waved by tens of thousands of jubilant participants in an initiative called the “wall of light”.

The celebration continued after the Pope’s arrival at the Nunciature, where hundreds of people had gathered out front to honour him with songs and slogans. The demonstration of affection would likely have continued on end, had Francis not come out to greet them. “This evening”, he said to them, “do not forget to look to Our Lady. Let us think of the people we love and of those whom we do not love”. Then, before going back inside, he invited them to say a Hail Mary.

Gaetano Vallini

PRINTED EDITION

 

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