The Latest: Pope's helicopter overflew Teotihuacan pyramids

AP News
|
Posted: Feb 14, 2016 10:29 PM
The Latest: Pope's helicopter overflew Teotihuacan pyramids

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The latest on Pope Francis' visit to Mexico (all times local):

9:30 p.m.

Pope Francis got a brief glimpse of pre-Hispanic culture Sunday, the day before he flies to the southern state of Chiapas to celebrate Mexico's indigenous peoples.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi says that before arriving in the Mexico City suburb of Ecatepec for a Mass, the pope's helicopter flew over the pyramids of Teotihuacan about 40 kilometers (25 miles) northeast of the capital.

Teotihuacan was founded almost 2,500 years ago and the city came to dominate trade, culture and architecture of large swaths of Mexico. It was abandoned when the Aztecs arrived 1,300 years ago.

___

7:55 p.m.

Roman Catholic faithful are beginning to gather in Mexico's southern state of Chiapas, where Pope Francis will visit Monday.

A group of Franciscan friars and seminary students involved in aid work for migrants are among some of those getting ready to attend the pope's Mass at a soccer stadium in the state capital of Tuxtla Gutierrez. They say they hope Francis will mention the plight of migrants, who suffer a torturous journey through Mexico trying to reach the U.S. border.

Some in the group have been working at a migrant shelter in the city of Tenosique in neighboring Tabasco state. Friar Enrique Pool Paredes says that's "where we bring our pastoral message and psychological help to the many people arriving every day."

Nineteen-year-old seminary student Jesus Edilberto says Pope Francis is following in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi and that is why he has come for the Mass. In his words, "this will give us motivation and strength to continue helping these families."

___

6:55 p.m.

Pope Francis has arrived back at the Vatican ambassador's residence where he is staying in Mexico City, after wrapping up a visit to pediatric hospital as his last scheduled event for Sunday.

Onlookers cheered as he passed by in a small, white, hard-top Fiat rather than an open-air popemobile that he used during drives earlier in the day.

Francis got out and greeted well-wishers gathered near the residence, blessing them and grasping their hands. He also urged them: "Don't forget to pray for me."

He then entered the residence looking a bit more energetic than he did Saturday evening.

___

5:35 p.m.

Even Pope Francis has a Valentine.

A little girl in a wheelchair presented Francis with a handmade Valentine's Day card Sunday while he was visiting a Mexico City pediatric hospital.

"You made this?" Francis asked as he accepted the card with a big heart on the front. "Gracias."

The pope bent down and kissed dozens of sick kids gathered for his visit, playfully mussing the hair of the older ones and stopping to chat with those who wanted to. Some posed for selfies with the pope. Several rose from their wheelchairs to embrace him.

Francis also played doctor, giving a little boy some medicine from a dropper.

The pope makes a point of stopping at children's hospitals during his foreign trips, both to visit with the kids and to thank the staff for caring for them. While parts of the encounters are televised, Francis also visits bedridden patients in private for more personal encounters.

___

5:20 p.m.

Pope Francis has passed by adoring crowds at Mexico City's iconic Angel of Independence on his way to visit a pediatric hospital.

As his motorcade rounded the monument on Paseo de la Reforma boulevard, several dozen nuns rushed to the metal barricades to salute the pontiff.

A group of young lay missionaries from the northern state of Durango were on hand to sing the traditional Mexican folk song "Cielito Lindo" as Francis went by in the popemobile.

Group leader Jose Cruz Moron Alba strummed his guitar and led the mostly teenagers through a rousing rendition of the tune. Moron Alba said he liked the pope's message earlier in the day condemning Mexico's "dealers of death," a reference to the drug trade.

Durango is part of Mexico's so-called golden triangle, where opium poppies and marijuana are harvested to feed drug trafficking.

___

4:25 p.m.

Pope Francis is urging Mexican seminarians to be true pastors devoted to God instead of "clerics of the state," an implicit but stinging criticism of the country's Roman Catholic hierarchy.

Francis' jab comes in an inscription he left in the guestbook at the Ecatepec seminary after celebrating Mass. It admonishes priests-in-training to always keep Jesus at front in their minds and to "prepare to be pastors of the faithful people of God and not 'clerics of the state.'"

While there are exceptions, the Mexican church hierarchy tends to be staunchly conservative and known for its close ties to the wealthy and powerful governing elite.

Even members of the Mexican clergy have faulted church leaders for prizing relations with the government over the pastoral needs of ordinary faithful. They cite as a recent example the tepid response by bishops to the 2014 disappearances of 43 students at the hands of police in Guerrero state.

The bishops' frosty relations with Francis were on display Saturday when the pope criticized what he called gossiping, career-minded and aloof clerics who should instead stand by their flock and offer "prophetic courage" in facing down the drug trade. His comments got only mild applause.

___

3:25 p.m.

The leader of an advocacy coalition against the killings of women in Mexico is giving tepid reviews to Pope Francis' homily at a Mass on Sunday.

Maria de la Luz Estrada is coordinator of the National Observatory on Femicide, an alliance of 49 rights groups. She says she's disappointed that the pope did not discuss discrimination against women or deliver a stronger "message of solidarity with the families of the victims of femicide and disappearances."

However, De la Luz Estrada says she is satisfied with Francis' admonishment to bishops on Saturday that they should pursue unity and avoid corruption.

The pope's Sunday Mass took place before several hundred thousand people in the Mexico City suburb of Ecatepec.

Activists say Ecatepec is the "center of the problem" of women disappearing in Mexico state, which abuts the capital on three sides. At least 1,554 women have vanished in the state since 2005, according to the coalition.

___

1:10 p.m.

Pope Francis is urging Mexicans to make the country into a land of opportunity, not a place of emigration where young people are "destroyed at the hands of the dealers of death."

In a final prayer at the end of Mass on Sunday, Francis urged the hundreds of thousands of people who gathered in the gritty suburb of Ecatepec to be on the "front lines" in forging Mexico's future.

He urged them to make their country "a land of opportunities, where there will be no need to emigrate in order to dream, no need to be exploited in order to work, no need to make the despair and poverty of many the opportunism of a few, a land that will not have to mourn men and women, young people and children who are destroyed at the hands of the dealers of death."

___

12:30

Pope Francis is telling Mexicans at a huge outdoor Mass that there can be "no dialogue with the devil."

The pontiff says that's because "he will always defeat us, (and) only the power of the word of God can defeat him."

Speaking out against the drug trade and associated violence is a central theme of the pope's five-day visit.

Francis' comment came as he briefly departed from prepared remarks during his homily in Ecatepec, a hardscrabble city of 1.6 million outside the Mexican capital.

Ecatepec has been afflicted by murders, kidnappings and extortion by criminal gangs.

___

12:10 p.m.

Pope Francis is urging Mexicans to resist the devil and the temptations of wealth and corruption as he celebrates his largest Mass in Mexico in the crime-riddled suburb of Ecatepec.

After spending his first full day in the grandeur of Mexico City's historic center, Francis headed to the capital's periphery Sunday. Ecatepec is a sprawling northern suburb of 1.6 million where drug cartels hold sway and the murder rate, especially for women, is so high the government issued a special alert last year.

In his homily, Francis warned the faithful that the devil, "the father of lies," tries to divide society and that Mexicans must resist the temptations of wealth, vanity and pride.

He said people who take things for their own use that are destined for all are taking the "bread based on the toil of others, or even at the expense of their very lives." He said: "This is the bread that a corrupt family or society gives its own children."

___

12:00 p.m.

Javier Rivera is a 29-year-old art teacher who figured he could make a few extra bucks selling Pope Francis T-shirts ahead of the pontiff's Mass in the Mexico City suburb of Ecatepec.

But so far business has been anything but brisk. Of the 200 garments he printed up, he's only managed to sell 80. Rivera started out selling them for 100 pesos (about $5.30), but is now discounting them at 30 pesos ($1.60).

The problem is competition from a horde of other people hawking everything from Francis keychains and rosaries to coffee mugs and calendars.

Rivera says Ecatepec residents are very resourceful and accustomed to doing whatever is necessary to get by.

He laments that "it seems everyone had the same idea as me."

___

11:00 a.m.

A thick haze is hanging over the Valley of Mexico, which is home to the Mexican capital and the suburb of Ecatepec where Pope Francis is set to hold a huge outdoor Mass.

There's a notable smell of smoke in the air and skyscrapers in a central business district were obscured by the haze.

The Mexico City government says via Twitter that there was a grassland fire in San Salvador Atenco about 6 miles (10 kilometers) from the site of the papal Mass.

The government is reporting an overall air quality of "bad" and recommends that people suffering from asthma or other respiratory problems restrict their outdoor activities.

That's not unusual for the famously smoggy capital and falls short of its "very bad" and "extremely bad" ratings.

___

10:30 a.m.

Pope Francis has arrived at the sprawling, gritty suburb of Ecatapec where he's due to say Mass for more than 300,000 people on a vast field at the edge of the Mexico City metropolis.

During the motorcade through Mexico City to catch his helicopter, the pontiff stopped his popemobile briefly to greet and hug a group of nuns.

___

9:50 a.m.

Pope Francis is starting his second full day in Mexico with a healthy dose of the country's hospitality. There are songs, cheers and chants as he starts his journey to the gritty suburb of Ecatepec, where he'll preside over the largest Mass of his visit.

Some of the chants echo those that greeted his predecessor John Paul II, who was especially beloved in Mexico. Among them are calls of "Francis, brother, now you are Mexican," a phrase that rhymes in Spanish.

The pope walked out of the nuncio's residence to bless and kiss people waiting there: families with children, people in wheelchairs.

He's beaming and animated as he heads out on his motorcade in an open popemobile — seemingly revived after appearing worn out during Mass Saturday afternoon at the Basilica of Guadalupe.

And shortly after leaving, he's stopped to plunge into the excited crowd along the street.

___

8:10 a.m.

Mexicans bundled against the cold are arriving at a huge field in a crime-ridden suburb of Mexico City for what is expected to be the biggest Mass of Pope Francis' five-day trip.

After spending his first full day in the grandeur of Mexico City's historic center, Francis is heading to the capital's periphery for a Mass on Sunday in Ecatepec, a sprawling suburb of 1.6 million where drug cartels hold sway and the murder rate, especially for women, is particularly high.

Pilgrims sporting white baseball caps wrapped themselves in blankets to guard against temperatures that dipped in to the 30s Fahrenheit (about 3 celsius) as they trudged along the roads leading to the Mass site, a sprawling field that has a capacity of 400,000 people.

Francis is expected to offer a message of hope and encouragement for a part of Mexico where extortion and disappearances are a near-daily part of life.