Under the great cross
On Wednesday afternoon, 17 February, after circulating among the faithful who awaited him before Mass at the Ciudad Juárez fairgrounds, Francis stepped out of the popemobile near the bank of the Rio Grande, at the metal fence that marks the border between Mexico and the United States of America.
He approached the great cross that was placed there in memory of his visit and of the victims of human trafficking and violent crime. Here, in the place that will henceforth be known as El Punto, the Pope placed a bouquet of flowers and paused in silent prayer. He then blessed three smaller crosses — which are destined for Las Cruces, New Mexico and El Paso, Texas in the USA, and for Ciudad Juárez itself. He also blessed the faithful who stood on the opposite side of the fence.
A wall 700 miles long dashes the hopes of an incalculable number of migrants. They come from many Latin American countries, hoping to achieve their American dream, often illegally, relying on gangs of criminals. It is also a border crossed by vast quantities of drugs, with violence and death in tow. Over the last 15 years, the bodies of more than 5,000 desperate migrants have been found here. For this reason the Pope’s presence in Ciudad Juárez — the so-called Lampedusa of America, one of the world’s most dangerous cities, particularly marked by violence against women — took on immeasurable value. This stop, the last of the Holy Father’s visit in Mexico, was highly anticipated, hoped for and tenaciously followed, because a strong message was expected to emanate from this symbolic site. And thus it did.
St. Peter’s Square
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