Pope Francis told Mexico’s political leaders on Saturday that they have a duty to provide their people with security, “true justice” and basic services as he plunged head-on into the drug-inspired violence, corruption and social ills that are tormenting the country.
Francis began his first full day in the country with a winding 14-kilometre popemobile ride into the capital’s historic centre to the delight of tens of thousands of Mexicans greeting history’s first Latin American pope. Despite an exhausting Friday that involved a historic embrace with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Francis obliged their demands and stopped to hand out rosaries to the elderly, sick and disabled who gathered in front of his residence.
Francis met with President Enrique Pena Nieto at the presidential palace and delivered a tough-love speech to authorities aimed at shaking up the privilege that has long characterized Mexican politics. Later, he was to issue a similarly pointed speech to bishops about their duties as pastors before ending the day with a Mass at the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the largest shrine dedicated to the Madonna.
In his speech, Francis said public officials responsible for the common good must be honest and upright and not be seduced by privilege or corruption.
“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.
Corruption permeates many aspects of Mexican society, from traffic cops and restaurant inspectors who routinely shake down citizens for bribes, to politicians and police commanders who are sometimes on the payroll of drug cartels.