Pope Francis visited one of Mexico’s most dangerous cities, Ciudad Juárez, last week.
There were 434 homicides in Ciudad Juárez in 2014, with 340 reported as drug-related, according to the U.S. Overseas Security Advisory Council.
Ciudad Juárez sits on the Texas-Mexico border, south of El Paso, Texas. Due to this, it is a prime spot for the country’s many drug cartels to move their product into the U.S. Competition between the cartels leads to violence and crime.
The pope made his visit last Wednesday after a tour of Mexico that started Feb. 12. The trip ended with Pope Francis visiting a prison in Juárez and celebrating mass with the attendance of thousands.
The pope’s homily reflected the humanitarian difficulties resulting from the drug wars between Mexico’s many cartels.
“Here in Ciudad Juárez, as in other border areas, there are thousands of immigrants from Central America and other countries, not forgetting the many Mexicans who also seek to pass over ‘to the other side.’ Each step, a journey laden with grave injustices: the enslaved, the imprisoned and extorted; so many of these brothers and sisters of ours are the consequence of a trade in human beings,” Francis said.
“Injustice is radicalized in the young; they are ‘cannon fodder,’ persecuted and threatened when they try to flee the spiral of violence and the hell of drugs,” Francis said.
Mexico native Padre Salvador Márquez-Muñoz, priest of the Catholic Church in Siloam Springs, said the pope’s visit was meant to bring an encounter of Christ’s love to the city of Ciudad Juárez.
“Christ is among the hundreds of immigrants who cross over, hundreds more who are deported and the hundreds of people who have been victims of organized crime. Christ is in the pain and suffering of hundreds of people one may encounter day after day in Ciudad Juárez and El Paso, and that is precisely what Pope Francis is doing. He is encountering Christ in the hearts and lives of those many people,” Márquez said.
Márquez also felt that the pope’s media attention was entirely warranted.
“One the many reasons the pope has received so much attention by the media is because he is a person whose transparency brings hope and love to the many people who are facing challenging times. His message is a message of God’s love and mercy,” Márquez said.
Others were less optimistic about the pope’s time in Mexico. The pope also visited Israel Hernandez’s hometown, Morelia, Michoacán.
“I’ve talked to some of my friends and family and most of them did not have a good experience from his visit,” Hernandez said, “It was really expensive to have him visit a city that is not of the size of Mexico City and all of the expenses were paid by the government, which is supposed to be secular.”