Pope Francis went into Mexico city’s crime-ridden suburb of Ecatepec yesterday to see the reality of the Mexican ‘periphery’, where drug violence, gangland-style executions and kidnappings are daily facts of life.
The pontiff brought a message of hope and solidarity to residents, with a Mass featuring readings about not being tempted by the devil – a common exhortation from a pope who frequently invokes the threat of “the evil one”.
The Mass took place at an outdoor field with an estimated capacity of 400,000 and the Pope’s choice of Ecatepec for his biggest event in Mexico says volumes about his priorities.
The city of some 1.6 million people is a sprawling carpet of breezeblock slums mixed in with some better-off neighbourhoods.
It is also a strategic point for drug gangs that thrive amid the poverty and unemployment.
It is a strikingly different backdrop from the pageantry of Friday night’s red-carpet welcome at Mexico City airport, where President Enrique Peña Nieto and first lady Angelica Rivera greeted Francis alongside performances by folk dancers and mariachi musicians.
Conchita Tellez (65), from the north west city of Mexicali, spent 38 hours on a bus to get to Ecatepec and was among the first in line for a spot at the Mass. She expressed hope Francis could help ease the troubled soul of the country, where 100,000 people have been killed and 27,000 disappeared in gangland violence since a government offensive against drug cartels started in 2006.