Pope arrives to celebrate Mass on March 25.Pope arrives to celebrate Mass on March 25.

SILAO, MEXICO – Pope Benedict XVI told Mexicans suffering from poverty, corruption and violence, to trust in God and the intercession of Mary to help them bring about a “more just and fraternal society”, during Mass.

“When addressing the deeper dimension of personal and community life, human strategies will not suffice to save us,” the pope said in his homily during the outdoor Mass at Guanajuato Bicentennial Park in Silao on March 25.

It was the pope’s second full day of his second papal visit to Latin America. “We must have recourse to the one who alone can give life in its fullness, because He is the essence of life and its author.”

The pope referred to the monument to Christ the King visible atop a nearby hill and observed that Christ’s “kingdom does not stand on the power of His armies subduing others through force or violence. It rests on a higher power that wins over hearts”.

That message was consistent with Pope Benedict’s frequently stated objections to strategies for social progress that blend Christian social doctrine with Marxism or other secular ideologies.

“The Church is not a political power, it is not a party,” the pope told reporters on his flight to Mexico on March 23. “It is a moral reality, a moral power.” Young men cheer as they wait for the pope to arrive for Mass in Silao, Mexico.Young men cheer as they wait for the pope to arrive for Mass in Silao, Mexico.

In his Silao homily, the pope did not specifically address any of Latin America’s current social problems, but after praying the Angelus following the Mass, he recited a litany of ills plaguing Mexico and other countries in the region: “So many families are separated or forced to emigrate ... so many are suffering due to poverty, corruption, domestic violence, drug trafficking, the crisis of values and increased crime”.

Speaking in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato, which was a stronghold of the 1920s Cristero Rebellion against an anti-clerical national regime, Pope Benedict recited the invocation that served as the Cristeros’ rallying cry: “Long live Christ the King and Mary of Guadalupe.”

But reaffirming his message of nonviolence, the pope prayed that Mary’s influence would “promote fraternity, setting aside futile acts of revenge and banishing all divisive hatred”.

The presidential candidates from Mexico’s three main political parties attended the Mass, along with President Felipe Calderon and his family.

The Vatican said 640,000 people attended the Mass. Some Mexicans took long trips just to see Pope Benedict on his first trip to the country since being elected in 2005.

“This is nothing too difficult,” quipped Mr Jose Trinidad Borja, 81, a retired hardware store owner from Queretaro who boasts of having participated in the annual eight-day diocesan pilgrimage to the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City for 65 straight years.

“With [Pope] Benedict, I feel something indescribable,” said Guadalupe Nambo Gutierrez, a retired secretary from Guanajuato City, who saw the pope in the colonial town on March 24 and attended the Mass the following day.

The previous evening at Guanajuato’s Peace Square, the pope spoke about the suffering of many children in this country, plagued with growing levels of conflict and violence.

He said he prays especially for those who bear the burden of abandonment, violence or hunger which has been on the increase in some drought ridden regions.

The pope called on “everyone to protect and care for children, so that nothing may extinguish their smile, but that they may live in peace and look to the future with confidence”.

Later the pope greeted a group that included eight people who have lost relatives to violence, much of it drug-related, which has killed nearly 50,000 Mexicans over the last five years.

On March 24, sex abuse victims of the late Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, held a press conference to present a new book criticising the Vatican’s failure to act against Fr Maciel, whom Pope Benedict eventually disciplined and posthumously repudiated. n CNS, VATICAN RADIO

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