For PIME missionary in Mexico, Francis’ visit should make history, not become a tinsel

Fr Damiano Tina, a missionary with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, has been in the country since 2008, in the state of Guerrero, where violence and drug trafficking are rampant. “Expectations are high for the pontiff’s arrival,” he told AsiaNews. People “expect Francis to point the finger at the many things that do not work in Mexico, like corruption, violence, kidnapping, and drug trafficking.” Although he will do so, there is a risk that things might not go behind speeches. Once the pontiff has left, the local Church will have to make “a qualitative change”.


Acapulco (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis is set to arrive in Mexico today for the start of a visit whose historical importance can be measured “by the various places he will visit,” said Fr Damiano Tina, a missionary with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), who has been in the Latin American country since 2008.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Fr Tina explained that “The pontiff will travel to many of the country’s emblematic places: from the large suburb of Ecatepec, which is both peripheral in geographic and social terms, to Ciudad Juarez on the border, perhaps the worst in the world; all this under the mantle of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the Marian sanctuary to which the pope is very close."

The PIME missionary is based primarily in Guerrero, a Mexican state torn by violence and drug trafficking. Now PIME wants to branch out to Ecatepec, one of Mexico City’s largest suburbs.

"It is no accident the pope has decided to visit it. Ecatepec is exactly one of those emblematic urban suburbs he talks so much about. PIME would like to set up there to start an evangelisation outreach for the poorest."

“Expectations are high for the pontiff’s arrival,” Fr Tina said. This is especially true “for the states he plans to visit. Catholics are excited about him because they love him and feel that he is very close to them.”

Nevertheless, “People would like to see a more informal, unscripted pope. In fact, they expect Francis to point the finger at the many things that do not work in Mexico, like corruption, violence, kidnapping, and drug trafficking.”

In a video sent to the Vatican, "many ordinary Catholics asked the Pope not to stick to protocol, but say things as they are,” Fr Tina explained. “The pope responded affirmatively, saying that he is aware of Mexico’s ongoing war, and that he would not remain silent."

It is clear that Francis knows Mexico "given the visit’s schedule. The trip’s stops represent the country’s sore points. Mexico City is the heart of the country, a megalopolis where development, poverty and contradictions live side by side. Ecatepec is 'the periphery' so dear to him. When he said he wanted a Church to reach out, he meant that this is the vantage point to see the world.”

The visit to Chiapas is also important. "It is an indigenous state, and Mexico’s roots are indigenous. As usual, indigenous people are marginalised. The pope wants to show he is close to them."

There are also great expectations about his visit to northern Mexico. "Ciudad Juarez is on the toughest border in the world, where people want to reach the American Dream illegally, but so many have died and continue to die trying to do so – a place where arms, people and drugs exchange hands. . . The pope will talk to them about the Church’s commitment for the future and about its pain for the far too many victims of this traffic."

All this, of course, comes "under the mantle of the Virgin of Guadalupe, which Francis will visit with filial devotion. It is the continent’s most important Marian shrine and probably in the world - a light upon Mexico."

However, next to the enthusiasm over the visit, there are some risks, “namely that the pope will not be heeded.” In fact, “No one should take it for granted that real change will come about after his trip. The local Church is like an elephant, slow to move. It is devout, but does things by the book, too much sometimes.”

“Francis will ask it to make a great leap, a qualitative change.” For this reason, “His visit is very important; it should not become a tinsel.”

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