Pope Francis in Mexico heads south to Chiapas

2016-02-15 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) On Monday Pope Francis flies south west to Chiapas landing in this most southern Mexican state's capital city, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, before making his way to San Cristóbal de las Casas. He’ll be returning there in the evening to meet with families before returning to Mexico City.

Listen to Veronica Scarisbrick's report:

Cristobal de las Casas is a tourist haunt which lies along the border with Guatemala. A border traditionally poorly guarded and a place of entry into Mexico for migrants from Central America.

But the reason tourists come here is to visit some of the most striking archaeological sites in Mexico, 'Mayan' ruins in misty jungles.

And it’s that word ‘Mayan’ that brings the Pope here. Chiapas is home to one of the largest indigenous populations in the country with twelve federally recognized ethnicities. Among them ‘Chamulans’, a subset of the ‘Tzotzil Mayas’ who make up a third of Chiapa’s nearly one million indigenous people.

Much of the state’s history is centered on the subjugation of these peoples with occasional rebellions. The last of these rebellions was the 1994 Zapatista uprising, which succeeded in obtaining new rights for indigenous people.

And Pope Francis is coming to celebrate Holy Mass in  a stadium at San Cristobal de las Casas. The celebration will include three indigenous languages, ‘tseltal’, ‘ch’ol’ and ‘tsotil’.

It’s here that from 1959 to 1999 Bishop Samuel Ruiz learnt these Mayan languages in an effort to communicate with the indigenous people and from here he rode his mule into the hills travelling to remote areas where they lived in dire poverty. It is here that he gave value to local traditions, education, social justice and care of ‘Mother Earth’.

It was also here that ‘the Bishop of the Poor’ or ‘Tata’, father as they called him in the Mayan languages is now buried at the heart of the Cathedral Pope Francis will visit after Holy Mass.

(from Vatican Radio)