2012-01-07 Vatican RadioOn the first day of the New Year, the bishops of Mexico and Cuba announced the itinerary for the Pope’s visit to their respective countries this spring.
There’s not much need to call attention to the Cuban visit, which coincides with the Jubilee of Our Lady of Cobre, and comes during a time of unique historical and political changes for the Caribbean island. It is fair, then, to focus on some of the reasons for the visit to Mexico, and on the significance of that visit for the whole continent. It is not by chance that Mexico will be the first stop on his journey.
As he celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in December, Pope Benedict expressed his desire to participate in the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the independence of the Latin American countries. He spoke enthusiastically of the “journey of integration” of this “dear continent” and “of its new, emerging central role in the world”, pointing out the horizons of fully human growth, and of the “continental mission” of “new evangelisation”. So he has now chosen to go to one of the most populous Hispanic countries, to continue the celebration there with representatives of the Latin American Episcopal conferences, in “Bicentennial Park” at the foot of the Cerro del Cubilete. From the Park, recently built in the exact geographic centre of Mexico, in the place where the National Sanctuary of Christ the King stands, the Pope will spiritually embrace the whole country.
Who isn’t touched by the Mexicans’ affection for the Pope? By their enthusiasm when they come to see him in Rome? Who doesn’t remember the triumphal welcome that they gave John Paul II during each of the five trips he made to Mexico in his lifetime; and today, when so many of them travel to the pilgrim shrine established in his memory? Twenty years ago, when diplomatic relations with the Holy See were established, the country recognised the deep Catholic soul of its people. Pope Benedict knew he had to go to Mexico, and he wanted to choose a place where his predecessor hadn’t been able to go. Benedict’s mission is the same as that of his predecessor; it is an ongoing mission, a mission that is continually growing and developing. May his visit to Mexico contribute to efforts to overcome poverty and violence, and bring an increase of hope and peace to Mexico, and all of Latin America.