Mar. 24 - Throngs of Mexican Catholics welcome Pope Benedict, who opens his visit pledging to unmask the evil of drug trafficking. Michaela Cabrera reports.
The Pope touched down in Mexico on Friday, beginning his visit to the world's second most-populous Catholic state. He was greeted by full military honours at the Guanajuato airport. President Felipe Calderon, the First Lady and a group of children welcomed the Pope. Tens of thousands of people lined the streets of Leon, as the Pope mobile made its way down a 35-kilometre stretch. Many young people were let out of school for the day, and throngs were waiting since early morning to see the Pope. (SOUNDBITE)(Spanish) EDUARDO FONESECA, ONLOOKER, SAYING: "First of all, it's a great emotion. I think I was almost crying. I really hope this helps us change in many ways." Pope Benedict opened his three-day visit, promising to 'unmask the evil' of drug trafficking. Mexico has been ravaged by gang violence that has killed 50,000 people in the past five years. He addressed the crowd in Spanish, saying he had come as a pilgrim of faith, of hope and of love. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) POPE BENEDICT XVI, SAYING: "I will pray especially for those in need, particularly those who suffer because of old and new rivalries, resentments, and all forms of violence." In this visit, the bloodshed in the country is in the mind of many Mexicans, foremost being President Calderon himself who has staked his reputation on fighting the drug cartels. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) MEXICAN PRESIDENT FELIPE CALDERON, SAYING: "There are many challenges that we have had to face in recent times. The Pope is welcomed by a people that have suffered very much." Pope Benedict's visit to Mexico and later to Cuba is aimed at rallying Catholics as more and more are becoming disillusioned and lured to other faiths. Michaela Cabrera, Reuters.