In visit to Mexico, Pope Francis urges end to corruption, violence

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Pope Francis waves to the crowd from the popemobile in Zocalo Square in Mexico City, February 13, 2016.  REUTERS/Edgard Garrido  - RTX26SK1

Pope Francis waves to the crowd from the popemobile in Zocalo Square in Mexico City, February 13, 2016. Photo by Edgard Garrido/Reuters.

Pope Francis urged Mexican officials on Saturday to end a system of corruption and violence that has been exasperated by a unceasing drug trade, and to provide the country’s citizens with a semblance of justice that works for the “public good.”

The pope arrived Saturday morning to the veneration of tens of thousands of cheering onlookers in the predominantly Catholic country, as he weaved his way for miles through Mexico City atop the pope-mobile before a meeting with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.

Pope Francis (L) and Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto participate in a ceremony at the National Palace in Mexico City, February 13, 2016.   Tomas Bravo/Reuters

Pope Francis (L) and Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto participate in a ceremony at the National Palace in Mexico City, February 13, 2016. Tomas Bravo/Reuters

“Experience teaches us that each time we seek the path of privileges or benefits for a few to the detriment of the good of all, sooner or later the life of society becomes a fertile soil for corruption, drug trade, exclusion of different cultures, violence and also human trafficking, kidnapping and death, bringing suffering and slowing down development,” he said, in a statement made after a private visit Pena Nieto at the National Palace.

Pope Francis’ arrival kicked off a five-day visit to Mexico, his first since becoming pontiff, with plans to visit several areas likely to highlight a country rampant with poverty and political corruption. Roughly 80 percent of the Mexico’s 122 million people identify as Catholic.

Francis encouraged many of Mexico’s top Catholic leaders to increase efforts to assist migrants before celebrating mass at the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe, which hundreds of thousands devotees watched on screens set up outside.

The visit follows Pope Francis’ historic meeting Friday with Patriarch Kirill of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the first time leaders from both churches have met in nearly 1,000 years.

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