FRANCIS IN MEXICO, by Gabriela de la Garza Maldonado and Maria Fischer •
The last day of Pope Francis’ visit to Mexico, once again, he reached out to the periphery: a prison, and then to the border, where year after year thousands of migrants cross in search of a better future. “I am coming to the end of my visit to Mexico. I could not leave without greeting you and celebrating with you the Jubilee of Mercy.” One must savor this phrase. The Pope went to this prison not for a simple visit; he went to celebrate the Jubilee of Mercy with the prisoners. In them, he touched Christ’s flesh; the door of mercy is opened.
“During my visit to Africa, I was able to open the door of mercy for the whole world in the city of Bangui – for this Jubilee, just as it was God our Father who opened the first door of mercy by means of his son, Jesus…” The door of mercy, a visible sign of the Father’s mercy, receives whoever opens him/herself to God’s forgiving love. And the other side of the same coin, the works of mercy, make the good news credible to every man/woman of goodwill, during this Jubilee, because God the Father made the greatest work of mercy with his Son, Jesus.
During his visit to the Centre of Social Adjustment No. 3 (CERES0) number 3 at Ciudad Juárez, considered one of the world’s most violent cities, Francis said that crime could not only be resolved by incarcerating people. Then, hundreds of prisoners had the privilege of listening to the most concise summary of what the key of mercy in the Church and a society means to Francis: “Jesus’ concern for the care of the hungry, the thirsty, the homeless and prisoners (Cf. Mt. 25:34-40) sought to express the core of the Father’s mercy. This becomes a moral imperative for the whole of society that wishes to maintain the necessary conditions for a better common life. It is within a society’s capacity to include the poor, infirm and imprisoned, that we see its ability to heal their wounds and make them builders of a peaceful coexistence.”
Mercy and paternal delicacy, a young prisoner gave him a crosier that he carved beautifully out of wood. The Pope carried it in the final Holy Mass upon bidding farewell to Mexico at Ciudad Juárez.
Upon hearing him, there were many tears among the prisoners during the Eucharistic celebrations, at the farewell at the airport… a merciful father who touched everyone’s hearts.
“Affection therapy”, “Listening therapy”
The embraces and personal blessings to seventy prisoners selected for their good behavior (men and women) were a celebration of the Jubilee in words, gestures of mercy. They were in line with two coined phrases that Francis created during this visit: he spoke about “therapy of affection” during his visit to a pediatric hospital, where he embraced, listened to, touched, and he seemed to want to stay for hours. To the youths at Morelia, he asked them to encounter the poor as a friend, and to heal him with “therapy of listening:” “And if you see a friend who has slipped up in life and fallen, go and offer him or her your hand, but do so with dignity. Put yourself on their level, listen to them and don’t say: I have the solution for you. No, as a friend, slowly give them strength by your words, give them strength by your listening, that medicine which sadly is being forgotten: “the therapy of listening.” Let them speak, let them share their experience, and then little by little, they will offer you their hand, and in the name of Jesus Christ, you can help them. But if you suddenly begin to give them a sermon, going on about the same thing, well then, he or she will be worse off than before.
He is aware of reality
During those days in Mexico, there were massive Holy Masses, happiness, enthusiasm, elation, songs, dances, overflowing joy, posters, flags, currents of pilgrims, embraces, tears…But reality was present at every moment: the reality of prisons and hospitals, of migrants who lost their lives on the border, the reality of violence (more than thirty people were assassinated in Mexico during the Pope’s visit), drug trafficking, corruption, and the reality of the indigenous…Upon going to the existential peripheries of this beautiful country, Pope Francis showed the way to transform these cruel realities into doors of mercy: touching Christ’s flesh in the poor.
“At some moments, he made me cry because of our weaknesses,” Blanch Ramírez commented.
The words during the Angelus at Esctepec resound as a response:
“I invite you today to be on the frontline, to be first in all the initiatives which help make this blessed land of Mexico a land of opportunities, where there will be no need to emigrate in order to dream, no need to be exploited in order to work, no need to make the despair and the poverty of many the opportunism of a few.
A land that will not have to mourn men and women, young people and children who are destroyed at the hands of the dealers of death.
This land is filled with the perfume of la Guadalupana (Our Lady of Guadalupe) who has always gone before us in love. Let us say to her, with all our hearts:
Holy Virgin, “help us bear radiant witness to communion, service, ardent and generous faith, justice and love of the poor, that the joy of the Gospel may reach the ends of the earth, illuminating even the fringes of the world and may no periphery be deprived of your light” (Evangelii gaudium, 288).
“I am writing with great emotion, while I watch the Pope’s farewell on TV before departing to Rome,” Gabriela de la Garza Maldonado wrote. “These days have been a great blessing, filled with teachings and tasks to carry out.”