People walk past a banner welcoming Pope Benedict XVI outside the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City March 19. The pope will arrive in Leon, Mexico, March 23 to begin his six-day visit to Mexico and Cuba. CNS photo/Tomas Bravo, Reuters

Quake shakes central, southern Mexico, not region where pope will visit

By  David Agren, Catholic News Service
  • March 20, 2012

MEXICO CITY - A strong earthquake shook southern and central regions of Mexico March 20, but it had little impact on the region Pope Benedict XVI will visit.

"Everything is fine here," said Father Jorge Raul Villegas, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Leon, which will host Pope Benedict March 23-26.

The magnitude 7.4 quake and a magnitude 5.1 aftershock were centered about 340 miles southeast of Mexico City in a remote and marginalized region of Guerrero state known as the Costa Chica.

The impact was felt around midday in Mexico City, sending residents into the streets. A 1985 earthquake left thousands dead in Mexico City and flattened buildings, but improvements in permits and construction practices have been made.

President Felipe Calderon and Interior Minister Alejandro Poire said via Twitter that no major damage had been registered.

A person answering the phone at the St. James the Apostle Parish in Ometepec, initially reported as the epicenter of the earthquake, said items had been shaken off of shelves. The extent of the damage was uncertain, though.

Pope Benedict lands March 23 in Guanajuato state, 220 miles northwest of Mexico City; the region is not normally prone to earthquake activity.

Organizers of the visit say they are ready to welcome the pope, although Father Villegas said, "It's been very fast. We've not had much time to prepare."

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