It was the solemn conclusion of his visit to Mexico: Together with hundreds of thousands of people, the Pope celebrated a large church service on Sunday. In doing so, he called for a renewal and revival of the Catholic faith.
The backdrop for Benedict XVI. could not have been better: A colossal bronze Christ, high atop the 2.700-meter-high Cerro Cubilete, blesses the country with outstretched arms visible from afar. The statue is the geographical center of Mexico and its Catholic landmark. But in the immediate vicinity of the site where the pope celebrates mass stands the exotic house of worship of a Christian sect: "We are not Roman Catholics, we are the "Light of the World," is written defiantly on a wall there. Appropriately, Benedict XVI spoke. in the "Parco del Bicentennario" of Silao on Sunday of the revival of the Catholic faith.
"Viva il Papa!", hundreds of thousands cried out when Benedict XVI. Arrived at the event site in the Popemobile. The pope presented himself in traditional national costume with a sombrero on his head – designed especially for him. Tens of thousands had camped out in the meadows despite the cool night temperatures. The service, held in brilliant sunshine, was the highlight of Benedict XVI's four-day stay in Mexico.
It is necessary to overcome faith fatigue and "rediscover the joy of being a Christian," the pope preached. Catholics would have to resist the temptation of a faith that is superficial and dulled into habit. The tenor is clear: Even in Latin America, the Catholic faith is not in the best of shape everywhere. New evangelization is not just a European problem. On the flight to Mexico, the pope had praised the "intuition of the heart" among Latin American Catholics; however, this had to be accompanied by a "rationality of faith".
A relationship that was not always uncomplicated
The trip to Mexico is not only for the country itself, but for all of Latin America, a region where almost half of the world's Catholics live. At the service in Silao, this was expressed by the participation of representatives from 22 bishops' conferences. Nearly 250 cardinals and bishops from Mexico and other Latin American and Caribbean countries came to the event.
Joseph Ratzinger and Latin America – it was not always an uncomplicated relationship. The former prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith owed his earlier dubbing by his critics as a "tank cardinal" in part to his crackdown on liberation theologians in South America. Even during his first visit as pope to Latin America, in 2007 in Brazil, there were temporary irritations. A statement about the Christianization of the continent was taken by some Latin American Catholics as a trivialization of colonial atrocities.
No meeting with abuse victims
This time, there were no such upsets: On the flight to Mexico, Benedict XVI found. The Pope expressed his appreciation for liberation theology, albeit with reservations: a liberation theology understood in the "good sense," a "correct" one, could certainly contribute to overcoming the blatant social injustice in South America. This was, in principle, just what he had always said. Without the accessory of magisterial condemnations, however, it seemed immediately much friendlier.
The subject of sexual abuse has so far only played a marginal role during the trip. Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi, in response to questions from journalists, confirmed that a meeting with victims of abuse had not been proposed by the Mexican bishops. That is why none is taking place – just as previously in Portugal or France. Especially the abuse scandal around the Mexican founder of the "Legionaries of Christ", Marcial Maciel Degollado (1920-2008), had caused a sensation in the country. Victims still complained over the weekend about not being able to talk to the Pope in person.
After Mass, the Pope was to remotely press a button to start up new lighting for Cubilete's statue of Christ the King. For the revival of faith, however, a push of a button will not suffice.