When Pope Francis looks back at Mexico trip, he sees Our Lady of Guadalupe

Pope Francis touches the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe during Mass in St Peters Basilica on Dec 12 2014 Credit Daniel Ibanez CNA CNA 12 12 14 Pope Francis touches the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe during Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on Dec. 12, 2014. | Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Pope Francis on Sunday said the visit to Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe was the "central point" of his spiritual pilgrimage to Mexico. He praised the witness of the Mexican faithful and suggested that Guadalupe is part of their "special inheritance" that launched the evangelization of the Americas.

Before the Angelus on Sunday, with thousands of people gathered in St. Peter's Square, the Pope reflected on his visit to Mexico.

"To remain in silence before the image of the Mother was what I intended first of all," he said Feb. 21. He suggested that Our Lady of Guadalupe has "etched in her eyes the eyes of all her children." She "gathers the pains of violence, kidnappings, killings and abuses that harm so many poor people, so many women."

Pope Francis said the encounter between Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego began the evangelization of the Americas. It also began the continent's "new civilization, the fruit of the encounter between different cultures."

"This is the special inheritance that the Lord has consigned to Mexico: to guard the riches of diversity, and, at the same time, to manifest the harmony of the common faith."

The Pope noted the witness of those he had spoken with: Mexican families, young people, priests and religious, workers and prisoners. He said these people gave "a testimony of a clear and strong faith, the testimony of a lived faith, of a faith that transfigures life."

He said the people of Mexico have been "so often oppressed, despised, and violated in their dignity."

The Pope thanked God and Our Lady of Guadalupe for the Feb. 12-18 trip. He voiced his gratitude for everyone who welcomed him to Mexico and helped make the journey a success, Vatican Radio reports.

He also gave thanks to God for his meeting with his "dear brother Kirill," the Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. The historic meeting took place in Cuba Feb. 12 and resulted in a joint declaration.

The pontiff prayed that Mary the Mother of God "might continue to guide us in the journey to unity."

Pope Francis discussed the Sunday Gospel, which recounts the Transfiguration of Jesus. Jesus "allowed his divine glory to shine forth" in the presence of the disciples.

The Pope said his apostolic visit to Mexico was "an experience of transfiguration." He added: "the Lord has shown us the light of his glory through the body of the Church, the body of his holy people who live in that land."

After the Angelus, Pope Francis called on all Christians and people of good will to work "not only for the abolition of the death penalty" but also to improve the conditions in prison. These efforts would respect the human dignity of prisoners, he said.

He appealed to the consciences of government leaders to join "the international consensus for the abolition of the death penalty." He asked Catholic leaders not to hold executions during the Year of Mercy as a "courageous and exemplary act."

Rome will host an international convention working to abolish the death penalty on Feb. 22. The event is being promoted by the Sant'Egidio Community.

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Pope Francis said he hoped that the gathering can strengthen efforts to abolish capital punishment.

"The commandment 'Thou shall not kill' has absolute value and concerns both the innocent and the guilty," he said. Even criminals "maintain the inviolable right to life, the gift of God."

He said the penal system must always be open to the hope of reintegration into society.

Pope Francis also announced gifts for those gathered in St. Peter's Square: a small box that appeared to be a box of medicine. The box, labeled "Misericordin," contained a Rosary and an image of the Merciful Jesus.  

Volunteers, including homeless people, refugees and the poor, gave out the gifts.

The Pope had distributed the same gifts in November 2013.

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