.- At Guanajuato's Bicentennial Park, some Mexican Catholics had been waiting all night to celebrate Mass with Pope Benedict XVI on March 25.
It was well worth the wait, they told CNA.
“Fatigue and sleepiness are nothing if it means seeing the Pope,” said 36-year-old Esaúl Jíménez.
“After many hours of waiting we got in here (Bicentennial Park) at 1:00 a.m. today, Sunday,” Jíménez recalled. “But we couldn’t sleep because of the music and happiness.”
During the early hours of the morning, a sea of people converged on the park to secure their spaces for the Pope's appearance and his celebration of Mass the next day.
Lively cheers and expressions of affection met Pope Benedict – especially as he rode around for nearly half an hour wearing a black Mexican sombrero.
Almir Gómez, from Salamanca in the state of Guanajuato, said the Pope's visit has been “an extraordinary experience for all of us; something very beautiful.”
“People haven’t stopped singing and dancing since last night,” he said on Sunday.
Gómez hopes that all young people take Pope Benedict's message seriously – so that “after the Pope’s visit we are left with the seeds for peace,” needed to help Mexico during a difficult and violent time.
Approximately 600,000 people joined the Pope as he offered the Eucharistic celebration in 93-degree heat. The temperature did not lessen the enthusiasm of the crowds, who were provided with water from a number of trucks.
“I really wanted to see the Pope, and thanks be to God it came true,” said Cristina Mendieta of Jalisco.
“I’m here with so many young people before the Holy Father, who I know is a person who has much to give. I’m here to get something from him.”
Victoria Pantoja, 19, was among the thousands of volunteers who helped with the security of the enclosure at the park.
“I’m so excited for having seen the Pope and think it’s an unforgettable experience,” said Pantoja.
She and her fellow volunteers could be identified by the traditional “ayate” – a type of poncho – with the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe on one side and the Sanctuary of Christ the King on the other.
Jorge López, 18, came to Bicentennial Park to hear a message of “peace and hope from the Pope that is so needed by this country. I also hope that our faith grows.”
“I’m excited to be here,” said Paula Garza Ojeda, wife and mother of three children, who was especially happy “to see so many young people gathered here today.”
Miguel Paire Masías, who was able to see the Pope at World Youth day last August in Madrid, said he hoped Mexicans would “encounter God through the Holy Father’s message.”
Young people welcomed the Pope with rhyming chants on Sunday, as they did at his previous appearances during the visit to Guanajuato. One of the popular chants declared: “Se siente, se siente, el Papa está presente.” (“He’s coming, he’s coming, the Pope is now here.”)
“Benedicto, amigo, Juan Pablo está contigo,” ran another – “Benedict, friend, John Paul is with you.”