Pope In Western Hemisphere To Address Drug War And Communism
Pope Benedict XVI is en route to Mexico, where he will address the drug war violence that has taken over 50,000 lives in the country since 2006. He will follow that with a trip to Cuba on Monday, where he is expected to address communism.
Benedict said it is up to the Roman Catholic Church to steer people away from the greed-driven violence in Mexico.
"It is the responsibility to educate consciences, to teach moral responsibility and to unmask the evil," he said, "to unmask this idolatry of money which enslaves man, to unmask the false promises, the lies, the fraud that is behind drugs."
The Pope is expected to receive mostly a warm welcome in Mexico, which is over 80 percent Catholic. According to the New York Times, Benedict will be expected to also address a sexual scandal involving a sect favored by the Vatican for years:
That scandal, centered on a group called the Legions of Christ and its founder, Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado has been a wound that keeps opening. The accusations that Father Maciel was a drug addict who abused teenaged seminarians re-emerged just this week with a new book by a former Legion priest, which cites internal Vatican documents supposedly showing the Holy See knew decades ago about the allegations against Father Maciel, who died in 2008.
Pope Benedict, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, ultimately removed Father Maciel from his priestly duties in 2006, but some experts in church relations and former victims say that his efforts have fallen short. They argue that he knew about Father Maciel, from testimony of other priests, since at least 1998, and that if he fails to address the case during his visit this week, he will have missed an opportunity to heal a country of Catholics eager for closure.
The New York Times also reported Catholics in the country have low expectations of Pope Benedict XVI because he doesn't have the charisma and warmth his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, did:
At the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe outside Mexico City this week — the most important pilgrimage site for Mexicans — many Catholics said they were not going to Guanuajuato, and did not anticipate an outpouring of emotion because of the visit.
“I respect him as the chief of the Church, but my way of feeling for him is different from how I felt about John Paul,” said Maria Ontiveros, 65. “For John Paul, I felt an incredible tranquility, a trust.”
“John Paul was more flexible in his way of being, she added, and as for Benedict: “No, he’s inflexible.”
Before he boarded a plane taking him to Guanajuato, Mexico, Benedict voiced his view on communism in Cuba: "Today it is evident that Marxist ideology in the way it was conceived no longer corresponds to reality."
The Pope wants to help Cuba peacefully find new ways of moving forward without "drama," Reuters reported:
Benedict offered the help of the Church in achieving a peaceful transition on the island, saying the process required patience but also "much decisiveness."
"We want to help in a spirit of dialogue to avoid traumas and to help move forward a society which is fraternal and just, which is what we desire for the whole world," the pope added.
His comments drew a cautious response from Cuba's government.
"We will listen with all respect to his Holiness," said Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, speaking at a press conference in Havana shortly after the pope's comments.
"We respect all opinions. We consider useful the exchange of ideas," he added, noting however that "our people have deep convictions developed over our country's long history."
According to the Los Angeles Times, Human Rights Watch had a message to forward to Cuba:
Also Friday, the New York-based Human Rights Watch called for the Cuban government to end "repression aimed at silencing dissent" before and during the pope's visit. Dissidents, who the Cuban government view as subversives, have been beaten, arrested and otherwise harassed in recent days, human rights activists say.
The Pope is expected to be in Cuba March 26-28.