At 4:12 pm local time on March 23, Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Mexico for his first visit to a Spanish-speaking country in Latin America. In his first speech, the Pope said he came to encourage the faithful in their commitment to Christ.
“I come as a pilgrim of faith, of hope, and of love,” Pope Benedict declared. “I wish to confirm those who believe in Christ in their faith, by strengthening and encouraging them to revitalize their faith by listening to the Word of God, celebrating the sacraments and living coherently.”
“I am very happy to be here, and I give thanks to God for allowing me to realize the desire, kept in my heart for a long time; to confirm in the faith the People of God of this great nation in their own land,” he affirmed after receiving greetings from Mexican President Felipe Calderon.
Amid the applause and cheers of the thousands of Mexicans present, Pope Benedict offered his greetings to “all Mexicans” along with “all the nations and peoples of Latin America,” represented at the gathering by several bishops.
He said their meeting, near the monument to Christ the King on Mount Cubilete, “gives testimony to the deep roots of the Catholic faith among the Mexican people, who receive his constant blessings in all their vicissitudes.”
The Pope noted that Mexico, together with most other Latin American nations, had recently been celebrating 200 years of independence, marking the bicentennial with both civic and religious celebrations.
He observed that the Virgin Mary “has kept vigil over the faith of her children in the formation of these nations and she continues to do so today as new challenges present themselves.”
Latin American believers, he said, should seek to “share their faith with others as missionaries to their brothers and sisters and to act as a leaven in society.”
In this way, they can contribute “to a respectful and peaceful coexistence based on the incomparable dignity of every human being, created by God, which no one has the right to forget or disregard.”
“This dignity is expressed especially in the fundamental right to freedom of religion, in its full meaning and integrity.”
With faith in God, the Pope said, believers can be certain of “meeting him,” and “receiving his grace.” This hope enables Catholics to change society for the better, and to help “those who do not see meaning or a future in life.”
Mexico, and the whole of Latin America, “are called to live their hope in God as a profound conviction, transforming it into an attitude of the heart and a practical commitment to walk together in the building of a better world.”
He went on to describe charity, together with faith and hope, as an essential part of the Church's mission.
“Nobody is excluded on account of their origin or belief from this mission of the Church, which does not compete with other private or public initiatives,” he noted.
“In fact, the Church willingly works with those who pursue the same ends. Nor does she have any aim other than doing good in an unselfish and respectful way to those in need, who often lack signs of authentic love.”
Pope Benedict promised Mexicans that during his trip he would “pray to the Lord and to Our Lady of Guadalupe for all of you so that you may be true to the faith which you have received and to its best traditions.”
“I will pray especially for those in need, particularly for those who suffer because of old and new rivalries, resentments and all forms of violence. I know that I am in a country which is proud of its hospitality and wishes no one to feel unwelcome.”
“I already knew this, and now I can see it and feel it in my heart,” the Pope reflected.
“I sincerely hope that many Mexicans who live far from their homeland will feel the same way and that nothing will cause them to forget it or to lose the wish to see it growth in harmony and in authentic integral development. Thank you!”