.- Pope Benedict XVI says he wants to help Mexico in its struggle against drug-related violence and assist Cuba in discovering a new post-Marxist future.
âI am going to encourage and to learn, to comfort in faith, hope and charity, to console with a commitment to the good and to the struggle against evil,â Pope Benedict said during his in-flight press conference en route to Mexico March 23.
This is the Popeâs 23rd foreign visit since his election in 2005 but his first to the Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America. He will remain in Mexico until March 26. After that, the Pope will travel to Cuba, before returning to Rome on March 29.
Pope Benedict told reporters that the visit was âa great joyâ for him and âone that responds to a desire I have had for a long time.â
When he was asked about the level of drug-related crime and violence that has been afflicting Mexico, the Pope said he knew well âthe beauties of Mexicoâ but also âthis enormous problem of narcotics trafficking and violence.â
The Mexican government estimates that over 47,000 citizens have been killed in drug-related violence between 2006 and 2011.
âIt is certainly a great responsibility for the Catholic Church, in a country in which 80 percent of the people are Catholic. We must work against this evil, which is destructive of mankind and especially of our youth,â he said.
The Pope also reflected on the first task for the Church around the globe, which he said is to âproclaim God: God the judge, God who loves us but loves us in order to pull us toward the good, toward truth and away from evil.â
This means that the Catholic Church in Mexico must âeducate consciences, educate in moral responsibility and unmask evil,â he stated.
In particular, he urged the Mexican Church to âunmask this idolatry of money that enslaves men; to expose these false promises, lies, deceits â we must see that humanity needs the Infinite.â
With regards to Cuba, Pope Benedict described his visit to the Caribbean island as âa way of cooperation and dialogue ... that requires patience, but that leads forward.â
Cuba became communist after the 1959 revolution led by Fidel Castro, who was the countryâs president until 2008, when his brother Raul assumed power.
The Pope told journalists that âit is evident today that Marxist ideology as it had been conceived no longer responds to realityâ and that ânew models must be found.â
The papal visit to Mexico and Cuba also coincides with the bicentenary of independence for the people of Latin America. The Pope said that the Church âmust always ask herself whether enough is being done for social justice on this great continentâ but stressed that the Catholicism âis not a political power, not a party, but a moral reality, a moral power.â