When Pope Francis visits the cathedral in Morelia on Tuesday, he will step into a plaza that holds the memory of one of the drug war’s most notorious acts of violence.
On Sept. 15, 2008, the eve of Mexican Independence Day, throngs of revelers had crowded the plaza in the state capital, Morelia, when two grenades exploded, killing eight people, wounding hundreds and introducing an indiscriminate style of narco-terrorism that plagues the country to this day.
Gerardo Padilla, who worked at the time at Hotel Los Juaninos, which overlooks the plaza, heard a series of booms. Must be more fireworks, he figured.
It appears that no papal journey to Mexico is complete without someone handing the leader of the 1.2-billion-member Roman Catholic Church a sombrero. Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI donned them during their visits. Now it’s Pope Francis’ turn. By our count, he’s worn at least three during his trip.
Sara Hernandez came to the papal Mass clutching half a dozen yellow balloons. As she got closer to the Juarez fairgrounds, the homemaker bought a dozen papal key chains to keep the bunch from floating away.
Her 8-year-old grandson, Kevin, had inscribed one of the balloons with an important message -- not for the pope, but rather for his dead father.
"I wish that you were here with us dad," he wrote, misspelling "wish" in Spanish.
The pope saluted "our brothers and sisters" in El Paso, who were following a live broadcast of the Mass at the Sun Bowl stadium, adding that thanks to technology, "we can pray, sing and celebrate together ... and that no border can prevent us from sharing."
Gracias a la ayuda de la tecnologia, podemos orar, cantar y celebrar juntos ese amor misericordioso que el Senor nos da, y el que ninguna frontera podrá impedirnos de compartir.
Pope Francis did not cross into the United States but stayed in the scruffy city of Ciudad Juarez, once infamous for a sky-high murder rate, especially of young women. But his message was clearly intended for both sides.
He decried the global “human tragedy” that forces people to migrate unwillingly, risking death -- “each step, a journey laden with grave injustices: the enslaved, the imprisoned and extorted.”