ECATEPEC, Mexico - Pope Francis began his travels to Mexico's "peripheries" by visiting an overcrowded, sprawling settlement known internationally as a hunting ground for girls to force into prostitution and for boys to enlist in the drug trade.

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MEXICO CITY – A little bit of kindness can go a long way when recovering from illness, Pope Francis told a group of young patients.

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MEXICO CITY - Pope Francis told Mexico's president and government officials that the country's future can be bright only if government and business leaders put an end to a culture of "favors" for the influential and scraps for the poor.

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MEXICO CITY - Pope Francis demanded forceful denunciations of drug violence in Mexico from the country's bishops, who have preferred timid pronouncements instead of speaking prophetically on a tragedy that has claimed more than 100,000 lives over the past 10 years and left an another 25,000 Mexicans missing.

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ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM HAVANA - Though their differences are recognizable and real, Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow emphasized their obligation as Christians and as bishops to encourage collaboration among Christians and charity for all who suffer.

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CIUDAD JUAREZ, MEXICO - Esteban Alanis, 23, once ran with a local gang known as “Los Parqueros,” which would accost people for their cash and cellphones in a working-class neighbourhood of southeast Ciudad Juarez. He called the crimes “easy money,” while gang activities offered a sense of belonging and an adolescence of parties, girls and underage drinking.

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MEXICO CITY - A prison riot in the northern Mexican city of Monterrey has claimed 52 lives, offering another example of the problems plaguing Mexico's prison system and casting a pall over the arrival of Pope Francis in the country.

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MEXICO CITY - On a recent morning outside the Church of San Agustin in the middle-class neighbourhood of Narvarte, two students sell bric-a-brac and blast the Beatles’ “Let It Be” through a smartphone hooked up to speakers.

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis is scheduled to have more than two hours alone with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow in Cuba in addition to signing a declaration with the patriarch before flying on to Mexico for a Feb. 12-17 visit.

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis said his reasons for going to Mexico are "easy and simple."

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SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, MEXICO - Long before Pope Francis spoke of a poor Church for the poor and taking the Church to the peripheries, Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia of San Cristobal de Las Casas built the Church in southern Chiapas state.

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VATICAN CITY - In a video message one week before his apostolic visit, Pope Francis asked the people of Mexico for some time alone during his visit to pray before the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

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EL PASO, Texas - The Diocese of El Paso has scrapped plans for a border Mass that would have taken place at the same time as the closing Mass of Pope Francis' visit to Mexico in February.

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MEXICO CITY - The assassination of a Mexican mayor the day after she assumed office was a message from organized crime and evidence of its influence in the area around the city of Cuernavaca, said the bishop who celebrated her funeral Mass.

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COALCOMAN, Mexico - Fr. Emiliano Mendoza Magana, pastor of the St. James the Apostle parish in this town of timber cutters, recalls parishioners coming to confessions in past years with questions about grabbing guns and fighting back against a marauding drug cartel.

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