At two-year anniversary, pope talks of plight of immigrants
‘People are discarded’
Vatican City -- In a lengthy interview with a Mexican multimedia group, Pope Francis hit on several topics including his visit to the U.S., where he symbolically wanted to enter from the country’s border with Mexico.
When asked by journalist Valentina Alazraki why he chose not to go to Mexico as part of his trip to the U.S. in September, Francis said that “I thought about doing it, because I wanted to enter the United States from the Mexican border.”
“But, if I was going to Ciudad Juarez, for example, and entered from there, or Morelia, and entered from there, there would be a bit of havoc: how can one go from there and not come to see the Señora, the Mother!” he said, referring to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is a title given to Mary after she appeared to St. Juan Diego in 1531 on the Hill of Tepeyac, later to become a part of the Villa de Guadalupe in Mexico City, telling him to have the city’s bishop build a church in the place of her appearance.
When the bishop asked for a sign, Mary told Juan Diego to pick roses that were growing on the hillside, even though it was the middle of winter.
She arranged them in his tilma – a poncho-like cape made of cactus fiber – and when Juan Diego dropped them in front of the bishop, an image of Mary exactly as Juan had described, appeared on the tilma. The image is still housed in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
Pope Francis said that if he went to Mexico he would have to visit the image, and explained that one can’t visit Mexico “just for a bit. Mexico requires a week.”
“So I promise a trip to Mexico as it deserves, and not to hurry and pass through. It’s because of this I decided not to go to Mexico.”
The Pope’s interview was conducted by Alazraki, a correspondent for Mexican multimedia company Televisa. It was filmed by Vatican Radio and the Vatican Television Center, and published to coincide with the two-year anniversary of Francis’ pontificate March 13. The full transcript is at Vatican Radio in Spanish, and with extensive portions in English.
Among other topics Francis touched on, including his recent comment on the “Mexicanization” of Argentina and whether or not he likes being Pope, the pontiff spoke of immigration and the importance of the U.S.-Mexico border.
Not only do Mexican citizens cross the border, but also people coming from Central America and Guatemala, who he said cross all of Mexico “to look for a better future.”
Immigration today “is the fruit of unrest in the etymological sense of the word, a fruit of hunger, of the search for new frontiers,” he said. The same can be said of Africa, where migrants cross the Mediterranean by the overcrowded boatload.
Francis noted how they leave their own countries often due to hunger, war or a lack of work, and said these things all find a common cause in the “tyranny of an economic system that has the god of money in the center and not the person.”
“People are discarded. So a country creates – whether it’s America, Africa, wherever it is – creates an imposed economic situation, of course, which discards people, which makes them go to the other side to look for work, or food or well-being.”
Migration today is painful problem for the entire world, he said, but voiced his satisfaction that Europe has begun to review its immigration policy.
Migration was a topic the Pope touched on when he visited the European Parliament and the Council of Europe in November. He said then that Europe’s leaders needed to give a stronger response to the increase in migration, and urged them to work toward finding effective policies.
In his interview, Pope Francis turned to the Italian island of Lampedusa, which is the destination of thousands of migrants attempting to reach Europe each year, as an example of how migration policies have improved.
Returning to the U.S.-Mexican border, the Pope noted how it’s an area currently involved in “a great fight against drug trafficking.”
“I don’t want to throw out statistics and then create a diplomatic problem for myself – but I’ve been told, and I saw it in a magazine, I think (the United States) are among the top drug consumers in the world and the border in which the drugs enter, the main one, is the Mexican (border),” he said.
Francis then pointed to the area of Morelia in Mexico, saying that it is one place particularly ravaged by drug trafficking organizations.
The traffickers, he said, “know how to carry out their work of death, they are messengers of death, whether it’s by drugs, or to ‘clean’ those who oppose drugs.”
He recalled the 43 students who were disappeared in Mexico last fall, and are presumed to have been killed by a drug gang after being handed over by corrupt police. The students, Francis said, are asking in a sense for justice and to be remembered – not for revenge.
Pope Francis also referred to his recent elevation of Morelia’s archbishop, Alberto Suarez Inda, as cardinal in February.
One of the reasons for the appointment, he said, is because the cardinal – to use a colloqial expression – is “in the (frying) pan.”
“In other words he’s a man that is in a very hot area and is a witness of a Christian man, of a great priest,” Francis said.