Guest ColumnistPope Francis was clear about what needs to change in Mexico

As in millions of homes across the United States, the TV in our family room had been on and tuned into Univision since the Pope arrived in Mexico. We crowded on the sofa to watch his last mass in Ciudad Juarez-a city drenched in the misery caused by drug trafficking, corruption and exploitation. 

His passionate solidarity with the poor and suffering has never been so palpable.  On this trip he has spurned the elegant, European-style avenues of Mexico's great cities and headed to the troubled outskirts, the peripheries steeped in violence and grown used to sudden death and disappearance.  His homilies and speeches this week have been one long cry from an anxious heart.  From the mass at the border: "No more death! No more exploitation! There is still time to change, there is still a way out and a chance, time to implore the mercy of God."

What a breath of hope to the people of Mexico, and by extension, those of the many millions who live in societies dominated by disregard for human dignity and indifference to suffering.

What needs to change in Mexico? Pope Francis was very clear: The pervasive corruption that asphyxiates every honest impulse and creates a society which uses people and discards them. It's a reality which seems to have become a permanent system. But he has enjoined everyone in his audiences to refuse the temptation to be resigned to the status quo. 

In Ciudad Juarez's Prison No. 3, he told the inmates that even from inside the prison they could break the cycle of violence and exclusion, by using their painful experiences to become prophets in society. In his homily to priests and religious in Morelia, he exhorted them to resist the temptation to a resignation that would lock them into their comfortable sacristies.  The awful situation should instead kindle their faith, strengthen their compassion, and inspire them to carry out plans that are "a breath of fresh air in the midst of so much paralyzing injustice." In his talk with the young people of Michoacán he addressed the sky-high unemployment rate, which leads so many to abandon the fight to earn an honest living, and instead turn to drug trafficking and exploitation.  "But hand in hand with Jesus," he told them, "we can believe it is a lie that the only way to live or to be young is to entrust oneself to drug dealers or others who do nothing but sow destruction and death."

At the border he spoke with a heart in perfect sympathy for the misery of his flock.  He knows the awful statistics of the mayhem caused by drug trafficking and the rampant corruption it engenders: 26,000 men and women disappeared, over a hundred thousand violently dead, countless lives blighted.  He wants to measure the crisis not in numbers, but with names, families, and stories.  He spoke about the thousands of immigrants who flee, seeking the integrity and justice of American society, only to find themselves enslaved, imprisoned and extorted during their journey, pawns in the trade of human beings.

As Pope Francis called for the gift of tears-for the anguish that impels repentance and conversion, he seemed near tears himself.  His empathy is that of one who has known first-hand a society discouraged by pervasive corruption and insecurity, who has endured his own guerra sucia (dirty war).  He knows what it is like in a culture where the law is just another source of anxiety and fear.

We who were watching from the safety of the United States were moved by the plight of our brothers and sisters.  And by his beautiful message for Mexico.  In his own words:  "I invite you to dream of Mexico, to build the Mexico that your children deserve; a Mexico where no one is first, second, or fourth; a Mexico where each one sees in the other the dignity of a child of God."

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