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Mexican archbishop calls drug lords to conversion as papal visit nears

.- As Pope Benedict's visit to Mexico approaches, Archbishop Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago of Leon urged members of organized crime and drug trafficking to repent and work for peace in the country.

“Once more we call on these people to realize that their behavior is destructive to peaceful coexistence and prevents any possible development and progress,” the archbishop said.

Archbishop Rabago, who will host the Pope during his upcoming visit to Leon on March 23, underscored that he was not asking for a temporary truce, “which would be like telling those who do evil to stop doing so for three days and then continue on. Obviously this is not what we mean.”

According to estimates by local media, from 2006 – when violence sharply increased in the country – to December of 2011, more than 70,000 people have been killed in Mexico’s drug war.

Over 10,000 people are missing and more than 1.5 million have been displaced from their homes in regions where the drug violence is most severe.

Archbishops Rabago emphasized that the Church seeks to “disarm” hearts in order to foster peace in anticipation of the arrival of Benedict XVI.

“God is always willing to forgive us. I only ask you to acknowledge your mistakes, repent of them and stop offending and harming others,” he said, urging organized crime members to “repair the harm done and abandon their activities of death.”

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