By Dr. Daniel De La Miyar, Adjunct Professor of Communication and Faculty Advisor for The Bridge
2016 marks the Holy Year of Mercy within the Catholic Church as designated by Pope Francis with the motto “Merciful like the Father”. During this Holy Year of Mercy, Mexico celebrated His Holiness Pope Francis’ first visit to Aztec land as the first Latin American Pope during a six-day pastoral tour that included the newly renamed Mexico City, and the states of Mexico, Michoacan, Chiapas and Chihuahua.
As the successor of Saint Peter, first Pope of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis becomes the third pope in 37 years to visit the country of Mexico, beginning with Pope Saint John Paul II in 1979, 1990, 1993, 1999 and 2002; followed by one visit from Pope Benedict XVI in 2012; and in 2016 Pope Francis brings a message of hope for all Mexicans; his mission of mercy and peace. Pope Francis’ visit left Mexico, in the first two days, a total of $870 million pesos (close to $50 million U.S. dollars) from tourism to see the Pope. 2.2 million people followed Pope Francis’ journey in Mexico City; 300,000 people waited for him at the Plaza of the Constitution at the city center; and 297,000 volunteers formed a human wall for the popemobile to travel with ease while visiting Mexico City.
Born in Argentina in 1936, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, son of Italian immigrants, entered the Villa Devoto’s diocesan seminary after graduating with a degree in Chemistry and later joined the novitiate of the Society of Jesus, where he was ordained priest at the age of 33 in 1969.
In 1992, John Paul II named him auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires, for which in 1998 he designated him as archbishop, and in 2001, named him cardinal. Two times president of the Argentine Episcopal Conference and author of several books, archbishop Bergoglio developed a missionary project with four main goals: open and fraternal communities; prominence of the lay faithful; evangelization addressed to every inhabitant of the city; and assistance for the poor and sick.
In 2013, this modest bishop, who traveled in public transportation, lived in an unassuming apartment and cooked his own food, was elected as Benedict XVI’s successor. From the beginning of his pontificate, marked by his affable style, his closeness, and his clear and direct language, Pope Francis has repeated: “God is a loving and always forgiving Father, who has a compassionate heart for every one of us. Let us learn how to be compassionate with everyone else as well”. He is also a fan of basketball, soccer and used to dance tango during his teenage years. During his years as a teenager, he had a girlfriend and told her “if I do not marry you, I will become a priest”, he ended his relationship when he discovered the calling of God to join the seminary at the age of 19.
Pope Francis is a reflection of “real power is service”; he has formed a group of cardinals who advise him on the reform of the Roman Curia. He dedicated a Synod of Bishops to the current family situation and has published important encyclicals, like: The Light of Faith (Lumen Fidei), The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium), and Praise Be to You (Laudato si’). In his three years as Pope, he has visited Brazil, Tirana (Albania), the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, Turkey, Republic of Korea, Holy Land, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay, Cuba, the United States of America, The United Nations, Kenya, Uganda, and the Central African Republic. Defender of life in all its stages and dimensions, of the family built on the union of man and woman, human rights, poor people, interreligious dialogue, and environmental care, Pope Francis invites everyone to the universal brotherhood and to fight together against any kind of exclusion.
The pontiff Pope Francis states that “wherever the Church is present, the mercy of the Father must be evident”, he continues with “wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy”. During his recent visit to Mexico, Pope Francis visited various hospitals to pray with cancer patients, as well as, indigenous groups, prisoners, and the poor that are often forgotten. He reminded those that hold power not to forget the less fortunate and to share the wealth through a more equitable pay and to allow the grace of God to travel into their hearts. The work of the pontiff in the last three years since the beginning of his pontificate has been nonstop as he travels to remote corners of the world sharing hope and reaching out to those of heavy hearts through prayer and mercy.
The pontiff’s visit to Mexico also gave him the opportunity to have a private visit inside the chamber where the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe is housed inside the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City. Pope Francis has a dear and special devotion to the patron virgin of Mexico and protector of all Mexicans. His visit to Mexico left all Mexicans and foreigners longing for His Holiness’ visit to had been longer. He promised he will be back while asking to also pray for him.