Pope Benedict XVI says he wants to help Mexico in its struggle against drug-related violence and assist Cuba in discovering a new post-Marxist future.
“I am going to encourage and to learn, to comfort in faith, hope and charity, to console, with a commitment to the good and to the struggle against evil,” Pope Benedict said during his in-flight press conference en route to Mexico March 23.
This is the Pope’s 23rd foreign visit since his election in 2005, but his first to the Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America. He will remain in Mexico until March 26. After that, the Pope will travel to Cuba, before returning to Rome on March 29.
Pope Benedict told reporters that the visit was “a great joy” for him and “one that responds to a desire I have had for a long time.”
When he was asked about the level of drug-related crime and violence that has been afflicting Mexico, the Pope said he knew well “the beauties of Mexico” but also “this enormous problem of narcotics trafficking and violence.”
The Mexican government estimates that more than 47,000 citizens have been killed in drug-related violence between 2006 and 2011.
“It is certainly a great responsibility for the Catholic Church, in a country in which 80% of the people are Catholic. We must work against this evil, which is destructive of mankind and especially of our youth,” he said.
The Pope also reflected on the first task for the Church around the globe, which he said is to “proclaim God: God the judge, God who loves us but loves us in order to pull us toward the good, toward truth and away from evil.”
This means that the Catholic Church in Mexico must “educate consciences, educate in moral responsibility and unmask evil,” he stated.
In particular, he urged the Mexican Church to “unmask this idolatry of money that enslaves men; to expose these false promises, lies, deceits: We must see that humanity needs the Infinite.”
With regards to Cuba, Pope Benedict described his visit to the Caribbean island as “a way of cooperation and dialogue ... that requires patience, but that leads forward.”
Cuba became communist after the 1959 revolution led by Fidel Castro, who was the country’s president until 2008, when his brother Raul assumed power.
The Pope told journalists that “it is evident today that Marxist ideology, as it had been conceived, no longer responds to reality” and that “new models must be found.”
The papal visit to Mexico and Cuba also coincides with the bicentenary of independence for the people of Latin America. The Pope said that the Church “must always ask herself whether enough is being done for social justice on this great continent,” but stressed that Catholicism “is not a political power, not a party, but a moral reality, a moral power.”