Archbishop Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago of Leon said Pope Benedict XVI’s upcoming trip to the city will be the first time a pontiff visits the country's area with the highest percentage of Catholics.
In an interview with CNA on Jan. 17, Archbishop Rabago expressed his joy that Leon was chosen as the site of the papal visit, which will take place March 23-26.
He noted that within the city “there is a section where 94 percent of the population is Catholic.” Pope John Paul II did not visit the area during any of his five trips to Mexico, and the arrival of Benedict XVI “is a way to allow people to rejoice in this experience of faith.”
Archbishop Rabago said the Pope’s visit is “a recognition of the fidelity of our people, who have remained faithful to the Church despite all the proselytism by sects. The people have overwhelmingly remained in the Church,” he added.
“Leon is the geographical center of Mexico and since the Pope was not going to visit other areas of Mexico, a site accessible to the largest number of Mexicans was chosen,” the archbishop explained.
He called on Mexicans to be understanding of the Pope Benedict’s inability to travel to Mexico City, as the area’s high altitude could pose a risk to the 84 year-old pontiff.
“It is probably not an altitude appropriate for the Pope’s health,” Archbishop Rabago said.
He also observed that the Pope will be arriving in Mexico as the country continues to deal with the crisis of widespread violence. This crisis “is the result of a culture without values that does not see the validity and importance of life,” he said.
“We are convinced that we can only emerge from this situation if we teach people to respect one another and live in solidarity.”
For this reason, the archbishop added, “We hope Pope Benedict will encourage us to be more sensitive to these values that we have lost.”
Pope Benedict “has frequently expressed solidarity with those who have been struck by violence and he has called on us to strengthen our hope. This is what we hope for in order to move forward and build a better country,” he said.
Archbishop Rabago also said the Archdiocese of Leon has launched a program “in all parishes and apostolic groups” to prepare Catholics for the papal visit and help them learn more about Pope Benedict XVI.