Pilgrims hold up images of Our Lady of Guadalupe during an annual pilgrimage in her honor at the cathedral in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Dec. 12. The Vatican announced Dec. 12 that the pope will visit Mexico from Feb. 12-17. His trip will include a stop in Ciudad Juarez, the city across from El Paso, Texas, that is known for drug-related violence CNS photo/Jose Luis Gonzalez, Reuters

Pope's visit to border expected to highlight Church's outreach to poor

  • December 15, 2015

CHICAGO - With the poverty on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, Pope Francis' visit to the region in February will be an important opportunity for the Catholic Church "to emphasize the mercy of God that is at the core of the Christian faith."

That's how Catholic Extension views the trip, which will take place during the Church's newly launched Holy Year of Mercy.

"In building up the faith among the poor," said Fr. Jack Wall, president of Chicago-based Catholic Extension, "we are answering the Gospel call to serve 'the least of our brothers and sisters' and the Gospel mandate of the 'preferential option for the poor,' which is a cornerstone of Catholic social teaching.

"During his visit to the border, Pope Francis will undoubtedly show us the way," he said in a statement.

On Dec. 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Vatican announced details about the Pope's Feb. 12-17 visit to Mexico. He will visit some of the country's most marginalized communities. Pope Francis will stop in six cities, including two in the state of Chiapas and — across from El Paso, Texas — Ciudad Juarez.

Following the Vatican's announcement, Catholic Extension issued a news release saying it will work with the Diocese of El Paso to plan papal visit events on the U.S. side of the border. The Chicago-based papal society has a long history of providing support to El Paso and the other Catholic dioceses at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Pope is scheduled to be in Ciudad Juarez Feb. 17 and his visit will culminate with a 4 p.m. Mass (local time) at Benito Juarez Stadium right next to the border. According to the Diocese of El Paso, the Mass will include a cross-border component.

"We hope that in a special way Pope Francis' visit to this region will give voice to these often voiceless people here on the border, especially children and families who are the most vulnerable," said El Paso Bishop Mark J. Seitz.

"And we hope that his presence will facilitate a much-needed national dialogue that will help unite our own country around a compassionate response to the poor in our midst.”

The Feb. 17 papal Mass at the border is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from both the United States and Mexico.

Since its founding in 1905, Catholic Extension has been supporting the work and ministries of U.S. mission dioceses, like the El Paso Diocese. They are defined as "mission" because these dioceses have limited resources for funding both basic and essential pastoral works and ministries, and cover a vast territory with a Catholic population served by a small number of priests, religious sisters and other pastoral workers.

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