By Junno Arocho Esteves Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis said his reasons for going to Mexico are “easy and simple.”
“I want to come as a missionary of mercy and peace,” the pope said in a video message to the Mexican people released by the Vatican Feb. 7. “I want to meet with you to profess our faith together and share a fundamental truth in our lives: that God loves us very much, that he loves us with an infinite love, beyond our merits.”
The pope said he was “very happy” for his apostolic visit Feb. 12-17 and that he carries the people of Mexico in his prayers and in his heart.
“I want to be as close as possible to you, but in a special way to those who suffer, to hug them and tell them that Jesus loves them very much, that he is always at their side,” he said.
One of his “greatest desires” during the six-day visit, he said, is to visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which houses the image of Mary that was miraculously imprinted on the cloak of St. Juan Diego. The pope said that to feel the “tenderness of her gracious presence” would be a “beautiful” experience.
“There I will look in her eyes and plead that she never stops looking upon us with mercy because she is our mother in heaven,” he said.
Vatican updates papal itinerary for Cuba, Mexico visit
By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis is scheduled to have more than two hours alone with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow in Cuba in addition to signing a declaration with the patriarch before flying on to Mexico for a Feb. 12-17 visit.
The Vatican announced the pope-patriarch meeting Feb. 5 and, on Feb. 8, released an updated itinerary for Pope Francis’ trip. The pope will leave Rome almost five hours earlier than originally scheduled so that the meeting in Havana with Patriarch Kirill will not impact his schedule in Mexico.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters that in addition to official events on the schedule in Mexico, the papal motorcades are expected to be long and lively. For example, he said, the route from the airport to the nunciature in Mexico City, where the pope will sleep, is about 12 miles, and people are expected to line most of the route when he arrives from Cuba.
Five popemobiles will be on hand because papal flights to San Cristobal de Las Casas, Morelia and Ciudad Juarez would make it difficult to move the vehicles efficiently each day. Two of the popemobiles are being shipped down from the United States where they were used in September, the spokesman said.
No evening event is planned for Feb. 13 after Pope Francis’ Mass in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the spokesman said. Instead, the pope will have all the time he wants and needs to pray before the image of Mary preserved there, something the pope said he wanted to do. “He did not want to feel under pressure because of his program,” Father Lombardi said.
The trip was designed for the pope and his entourage to return each night to Mexico City and avoid having to sleep in a different city each night, “something which is rather tiring and complicated,” the spokesman said.
Another key in the design, he said, was to fulfill Pope Francis’ desire to visit cities and dioceses that did not have a chance to host either St. John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI.
The pope’s outdoor morning Mass Feb. 14 has been delayed by one hour. The Mass will be celebrated in Ecatepec, a diocese just outside Mexico City; the indigenous name “Ecatepec” means “windy hill” and overnight temperatures are frigid. Father Lombardi said the Mass was delayed until 11:30 a.m. to allow people to arrive in the morning without attempting to spend the night at the site.
A meeting with “representatives of culture” in Mexico City originally scheduled for the evening of Feb. 14 has been canceled, Father Lombardi said, mainly because of the hour delay of the entire day’s program because of the Mass.
Pope Francis has made it a tradition to invite a lay Vatican employee to join his entourage on trips abroad. This time, Father Lombardi said, it will be one of the Vatican firefighters. “Let’s hope he won’t have to work,” the spokesman joked.
Here is the updated schedule as released by the Vatican. Times listed are local, with Eastern Standard Time in parenthesis when it is different from local time:
Friday, Feb. 12 (Rome, Havana, Mexico City)
— 7:45 a.m. (1:45 a.m.) Departure from Rome’s Fiumicino airport.
— 2 p.m. Arrival at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana.
— 2:15 p.m. Private meeting with Patriarch Kirill.
— 4:30 p.m. Signing of a joint declaration. Speeches by patriarch and by pope.
— 5:30 p.m. Departure from Havana airport for Mexico City.
— 7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.) Arrival at Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City. Officials to greet pope.
Saturday, Feb. 13 (Mexico City)
— 9:30 a.m. (10:30 a.m.) Welcoming ceremony at the National Palace. Courtesy visit with the president of the republic.
— 10:15 a.m. (11:15 a.m.) Meeting with representatives of civil society and the diplomatic corps. Speech by pope.
— 11:30 a.m. (12:30 p.m.) Meeting with Mexico’s bishops in the city’s cathedral. Speech by pope.
— 5 p.m. (6 p.m.) Mass in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Homily by pope.
Sunday, Feb. 14 (Mexico City, Ecatepec, Mexico City)
— 10:15 a.m. (11:15 a.m.) Transfer by helicopter to Ecatepec.
— 11:30 a.m. (12:30 p.m.) Mass in the area of the “study center” of Ecatepec. Homily by pope. Pope recites Angelus.
— 2 p.m. Lunch with the papal entourage in the Ecatepec diocesan seminary.
— 4:45 p.m. (5:45 p.m.) Transfer by helicopter to Mexico City.
— 5:15 p.m. (6:15 p.m.) Arrival in Mexico City.
— 5:45 p.m. (6:45 p.m.) Visit to the Federico Gomez Children’s Hospital of Mexico. Greeting by pope.
Monday, Feb. 15 (Mexico City, Tuxtla Gutierrez, San Cristobal de Las Casas, Mexico City)
— 7:30 a.m. (8:30 a.m.) Departure by plane for Tuxtla Gutierrez.
— 9:15 a.m. (10:15 a.m.) Transfer by helicopter to San Cristobal de Las Casas.
— 10:15 a.m. (11:15 a.m.) Mass at the city’s sports center with the indigenous community from Chiapas. Homily by pope.
— 1 p.m. (2 p.m.) Lunch with representatives of the indigenous community and the papal entourage.
— 3 p.m. (4 p.m.) Visit to the cathedral of San Cristobal de Las Casas.
— 3:35 p.m. (4:35 p.m.) Transfer by helicopter to Tuxtla Gutierrez.
— 4:15 p.m. (5:15 p.m.) Meeting with families at the Victor Manuel Reyna Stadium at Tuxtla Gutierrez. Speech by pope.
— 6:10 p.m. (7:10 p.m.) Departure by plane for Mexico City.
— 8 p.m. (9 p.m.) Arrival at the Mexico City airport.
Tuesday, Feb. 16 (Mexico City, Morelia, Mexico City)
— 7:50 a.m. (8:50 a.m.) Departure by airplane for Morelia.
— 10 a.m. (11 a.m.) Mass with priests, seminarians, religious men and women, and consecrated persons. Homily by pope.
— 3:20 p.m. (4:20 p.m.) Visit to the city’s cathedral.
— 4:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m.) Meeting with young people at the Jose Maria Morelos Pavon Stadium. Speech by pope.
— 6:30 p.m. (7:30 p.m.) Departure by plane for Mexico City.
— 7:35 p.m. (8:35 p.m.) Arrival in Mexico City.
Wednesday, Feb. 17 (Mexico City, Ciudad Juarez)
— 8:35 a.m. (9:35 a.m.) Departure by plane for Ciudad Juarez.
— 10 a.m. (12 p.m.) Arrival at Abraham Gonzalez International Airport in Ciudad Juarez.
— 10:30 a.m. (12:30 p.m.) Visit to Cereso prison. Speech by pope.
— 12 p.m. (2 p.m.) Meeting with workers and employers at the Colegio de Bachilleres of the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Speech by pope.
— 4 p.m. (6 p.m.) Mass at the fairgrounds of Ciudad Juarez. Homily and greeting by pope.
— 7 p.m. (9 p.m.) Departure ceremony at the Ciudad Juarez International Airport.
— 7:15 p.m. (9:15 p.m.) Departure by plane for Rome.
Thursday, Feb. 18 (Rome)
— 2:45 p.m. (8:45 a.m.) Arrival at Rome’s Ciampino Airport.