Pope To Give Mass In Mexico

Pope Benedict XVI gives an open-air Mass in Mexico Sunday and, on his way there, will bless the Christ the King monument, an important symbol of Mexican Catholicism.

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SUSAN STAMBERG, BYLINE: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Susan Stamberg.

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STAMBERG: Cheers in Central Mexico where Pope Benedict the 16th gives an open air Mass today.

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STAMBERG: Organizers expect several hundred thousand people will attend. The Mass is part of a one-week trip by the pontiff to Mexico and Cuba. We'll hear more about the pope's upcoming visit to Cuba in a moment.

But first, NPR's Jason Beaubien is following the Mexican leg of the pope's journey. He joins us from Guanajuato, Mexico. Hi.

JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: Good morning.

STAMBERG: Jason, this is the Pope Benedict's first trip to Spanish-speaking Latin America. How is he being received there?

BEAUBIEN: Well, it's really bordering on ecstatic at this point in time. At first, it really didn't look like that might be the case. It was very quiet on Friday right before he arrived. There are huge campgrounds that they'd set up and they were almost completely empty. And then once he landed, people just poured into the streets and just lined the entire streets along the routes that he has been driving around - Leon, Guanajuato, here in central Mexico.

Basically, it's sort of a 30-mile radius he's been going and people just been packing the streets and yelling and screaming, and really overjoyed just to have him here.

STAMBERG: Yeah. The pope has a pretty outspoken in condemning the drug violence in Mexico. Tell us more about that. What is he saying?

BEAUBIEN: He really is coming out very strongly and say that this is a huge problem that the church shares responsibility for, saying that the church has failed in terms of sort of providing the guidance, the moral guidance, that such a strong Catholic country should be showing. That this is happening in one of the most Catholic countries in the world, he says worries him. And he says that the church really should be doing more to combat it.

He actually said that the church should do all it can to counter the narco trafficking that's happening in Mexico. So he's taken a very strong stance on that and I think people appreciate that.

STAMBERG: Do you think that's the main reason he chose Mexico for this trip, or are there other reasons?

BEAUBIEN: I think that that's one of the reasons. I think he sees a country that really is suffering, a country that really is struggling with a terrible drug war that's claimed almost 50,000 lives over the last five years. But also, I think he came to here because his predecessor, John Paul II, was very warmly welcomed here. And I think that he knew that this is a place that really is important to the Catholic Church in the world. And it seems like it's working.

He's getting a very strong response. It's been the dominating the news throughout the country. And it seems like he is actually showing much more charisma than people thought he was going to a first. And people are very happy to see him.

STAMBERG: Thank you very much, Jason. NPR's Mexico City Bureau chief Jason Beaubien.

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