Pope to Mexico priests: don't give up in face of violence

Morelia (Mexico) (AFP) –


Pope Francis urged Mexican priests, nuns and seminarians on Tuesday to not give up in the face of violence, drug trafficking and corruption as he visited a gang-plagued western state.

The pontiff made his plea during a mass with tens of thousands of members of the clergy at a stadium in Morelia, capital of the state of Michoacan, a region that has endured years of drug violence that has also claimed the lives of priests.

"What temptation can come to us from places often dominated by violence, corruption, drug trafficking, disregard for human dignity, and indifference in the face of suffering and vulnerability?" the pope asked.

"What temptation might we suffer over and over again when faced with this reality which seems to have become a permanent system?" he said.

"Faced with this reality, the devil can overcome us with one of his favorite weapons: resignation. ... A resignation which paralyzes us and prevents us not only from walking, but also from making the journey."

Around 40 clergymen, seminarians and Catholic lay people have been killed across Mexico in a decade of drug violence that has left 100,000 people dead or missing.

The pope cited the example of Michoacan's first bishop in the 16th century, Vasco Vazquez de Quiroga, who stood up for indigenous Purhepechas, who were "sold, humiliated and homeless in marketplaces."

"Far from tempting him to listless resignation, it succeeded in kindling his faith, strengthening his compassion and inspiring him to carry out plans that were a 'breath of fresh air' in the midst of so much paralyzing injustice," the pope said.

In a sign of the clergy's concerns about the violence afflicting their country, the priests and nuns loudly counted from one to 43 before the pope's arrival, in reference to the disappearance and presumed massacre of 43 students in neighboring Guerrero state in 2014.

Pope Francis on Saturday called on Mexico's bishops to have the "prophetic courage" to defend of their flock against drug violence.

Francis also told Mexico's Catholic leadership to stop acting like "princes" and be closer to their flocks.

While many Mexican clergymen defend the causes of the poor, migrants and victims of crime, part of the church's leadership is seen as elitist.