Pope offers solidarity in letter to Mexican city besieged by cartels
MEXICO CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis sent a letter of encouragement to residents of a Mexican city besieged by the fight against drug cartels, a conflict that has drawn attention to lawlessness spanning vast areas of Mexico and the government’s failure to pacify the country.
In the letter sent to Bishop Cristóbal Ascensio García d’Apatzingán and read at Mass on July 18, the Pope referred to the violence in the city of Aguililla, in the western state of Michoacán, and offered prayers for the population, accompanied by the message: you are not alone.
“The climate of terror and insecurity which afflicts the population is contrary to the will of God. … Remember that you are not alone, the Lord is strength and mercy, that he never abandons his children, that the church is attentive and close to those who suffer ”, says the letter.
“My prayer to the Lord Jesus is that you may move forward in life and that He help you bear crosses and sufferings with gentleness, strength and patience.”
The Pope’s letter once again called attention to Mexico’s difficult security situation, which has not improved – and often worsened – over the past 15 years as drug cartels and groups criminals compete for the territories of crime.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador campaigned in 2018 on a pledge to calm the country, coining the catchy phrase “hugs, not balls,” to signal a change in approach.
However, violence continued to claim victims and the president turned to the military for public security duties.
López Obrador on July 7 called on the people of Aguililla “to help bring peace, that they do not take the path of violence and confrontation, that we put aside hatred and resentment, that we practice the principle of loving the other “.
” No to violence. Yes to peace, to dialogue. And don’t be manipulated by criminal groups. … We are very willing to help them all, but they should not choose violence to find a solution, ”he said.
Church leaders highlighted the plight of Aguililla, where two drug cartels waged a conflict so serious that people fled and highways were blocked, causing shortages of basic commodities.
Archbishop Franco Coppola, papal nuncio in Mexico, traveled to Aguililla at the end of April to celebrate Mass, where he told the population: “It is very important that what is happening here be known. The bad guys take advantage of the silence.
A July 14 statement from the Diocese of Apzingán called for prayer and described the local population as “suffering the consequences of this war”.
“Unfortunately, we do not feel the presence of the government to help solve these social problems. But we Christians feel the closeness of the Lord, who does not leave us alone, ”the statement added.
Pope Francis ended his letter by calling for conversion. But he also urged “those responsible for the common good to engage in the eradication of crime and impunity” and for the creation of “dignified work” so that people can “escape poverty … and do not fall into the temptation to engage in drug trafficking and violence. “