Pope Francis challenged Mexico's political and ecclesial elites to provide their people with security, justice and courageous pastoral care to confront the drug-inspired violence and corruption that are wracking the country, delivering a tough-love message to Mexico's ruling classes on his first full day in the country.
The raucous welcome Francis received from an estimated 1 million cheering Mexicans who lined his motorcade route seven-deep contrasted sharply with his pointed criticism of how church and state leaders here have often failed their people, especially the poorest and most marginalized.
"Experience teaches us that each time we seek the path of privileges or benefits for a few to the detriment of the good of all, sooner or later the life of society becomes a fertile soil for corruption, drug trade, exclusion of different cultures, violence and also human trafficking, kidnapping and death, bringing suffering and slowing down development," he told government authorities at the presidential palace.
In a subsequent hard-hitting speech to his own bishops, Francis challenged church leaders known for their deference to Mexico's wealthy and powerful to courageously denounce the "insidious threat" posed by the drug trade and not hide behind their own privilege and careers.
He told them to be true pastors, close to their people, and to develop a coherent plan to help Mexicans "finally escape the raging waters that drown so many, either victims of the drug trade or those who stand before God with their hands drenched in blood, though with pockets filled with sordid money and their consciences deadened."
The speech was met with tepid applause, with only a handful of bishops standing in ovation.
Francis' entire five-day trip to Mexico is shining an uncomfortable spotlight on the church's shortcomings and the government's failure to solve entrenched social ills that plague many parts of the country poverty, rampant drug-inspired gangland killings, extortion, disappearances of women, crooked cops and failed public services.