63°F
weather icon Partly Cloudy

Pope slams Mexico’s elite during Mass in ‘Saint Death’ city

ECATEPEC, Mexico — Celebrating Mass for more than 300,000 people in one of Mexico´s poorest and most dangerous cities, Pope Francis on Sunday took a swipe at the country’s rich and corrupt elite.

Decrying “a society of the few and for the few”, he denounced deep inequality and the vanity and pride of those who consider themselves a cut above the rest.

“That wealth which tastes of pain, bitterness and suffering. This is the bread that a corrupt family or society gives its own children,” the pope said at the Mass in the city of Ecatepec.

Francis urged his listeners to struggle to make Mexico “a land of opportunities where there will be no need to emigrate in order to dream” and where drug traffickers, whom he called “dealers of death,” would not ensnare their children.

Mexico is home to one of the world´s richest men, billionaire Carlos Slim, and a wealthy political class stained by corruption even as much of the country is steeped in poverty and violence.

A gritty expanse of cinder block homes north of Mexico City, Ecatepec has seen a surge in crime in recent years as it became infested with warring drug cartels.

Fueled by a weak economy and youth unemployment, gang violence has driven the city’s murder rate to one of Mexico’s highest.

It is notorious for the unsolved murders of scores of women, the bodies of many found abandoned in garbage dumps or tossed in a canal only miles from where Francis spoke on Sunday. 

‘NO DIALOGUE WITH THE DEVIL’

The pope warned Mexicans not to succumb to evil: “You cannot dialogue with the devil because he will always win,” he told them.

Ecatepec is home to a giant statue of “Santa Muerte”, or Saint Death, a cult figure followed by millions across the Americas.

The saint is often depicted as a skeletal “grim reaper” draped in white satin robes, beaded necklaces and carrying a scythe and is believed to grant requests without judging people.

Although he did not address Santa Muerte in his Mass, the Roman Catholic Church has been dismayed by the cult’s rise at a time it is battling competition from other religions.

“The Mexican Church already was very concerned by expanding Protestantism and now it must contend with a folk saint venerated mostly by Mexicans who still consider themselves Catholic,” said Andrew Chesnut, the author of a book about the cult.

A sea of Catholic faithful greeted the pope as he flew into Ecatepec aboard a white helicopter, many wearing T-shirts emblazoned with his image, chanting, cheering and waving flags. Tens of thousands of others lined the streets.

“We are living through a period of great violence … May (the pope) give us strength to continue to bear this, to keep struggling against it,” said Maria Dolores Angeles Martinez, a 26-year-old housewife from Ecatepec.

Across the country, more than 100,000 people have been killed in drug violence over the last decade and some 26,000 are missing.

President Enrique Pena Nieto has failed to significantly curb the bloodshed, with murders rising last year after falling early in his term.

Before becoming president, Pena Nieto was governor of the State of Mexico that is the home to Ecatepec. In the second half of his 2005-2011 term as governor, the murders of women doubled.

Corruption and incompetence are rampant in under-funded police forces across Mexico. The vast majority of murders are never solved and family members complain authorities show little interest in the cases of the missing.

Francis condemned corruption in a hard-hitting speech at the presidential palace on Saturday.

Unlike his predecessor Pope Benedict, who visited Mexico’s conservative heartland in 2012, Francis is stopping in some of the country’s most troubled corners on his first trip as pontiff.

He will travel on Monday to Mexico’s poorest state Chiapas, where he will say Mass with indigenous communities. Evangelical Christian groups have made huge advances in Chiapas, weakening the Catholic Church’s influence.

The pope will also meet with young people in Morelia, the capital of Michoacan state where drug gangs and armed vigilante groups have waged a bloody conflict.

He then concludes his trip in the notorious northern border city of Ciudad Juarez, where he will address the tide of illegal immigration into the United States, meet relatives of victims of violence, and visit a prison.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Heavier traffic expected from EDC festival attendees
Electric Daisy Carnival attendees began to vacate the Las Vegas Motor Speedway starting before 5 a.m., the majority heading south on Interstate 15.
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DJ Steve Aoki visits Las Vegas comic book store
DJ Steve Aoki visits Torpedo Comics in Las Vegas Friday, May 17, 2019, for a signing for his new comic book series "Neon Future." (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas Smith & Wollensky opens at The Venetian
After 18 years, the Smith & Wollensky location on Las Vegas’ south Strip closed in 2017, to be re-born two years later with a rib-cutting — instead of a ribbon-cutting — in The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Colin Cantwell, Creator Of Iconic Star Wars Ships Visits Vegas
Colin Cantwell, who created and designed such "Star Wars" ships as the X-Wing fighter, and Death Star, met fans at Rogue Toys in Las Vegas today. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Beauty & Essex in Las Vegas makes an EDC Wonder Wheel
In honor of the Electric Daisy Carnival, Beauty & Essex at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas makes its Wonder Wheel party-worthy. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Giada talks Vegas Uncork’d
Giada De Laurentiis talks during Aperitivo Hour, a Vegas Uncork'd event, at her Caesars Palace restaurant, Pronto, May 10, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Scenes from Vegas Uncork’d 2019 on the Las Vegas Strip
The 13th edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit brought four days of food, wine, celebrity chefs and parties to town, May 9-12. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three ingredients Gordon Ramsay can’t live without
Bon Appetit's Andy Baraghani interviews the "Hell's Kitchen" chef during a Vegas Uncork'd event at Caesars Palace, May 11, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Uncork’d launches wiith bubbles and a blade
Dozens of chefs representing some of the Strip’s top restaurants gathered Thursday at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas to launch the 2019 edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bunky the Clown at the clown convention
Bob "Bunky the Clown" Gretton talks about his life as a clown and the Clown Convention which was in Las Vegas at Texas Station this week. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Frying soft-shell crab at Lola’s in Las Vegas
At Lola’s: A Louisiana Kitchen in Las Vegas, soft-shell crab is breaded and fried and served either as an appetizer, po’boy or platter. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
The Stove in Henderson makes Pecan Pie Pancakes
At The Stove in Henderson, chef/partner Antonio Nunez stacks buttermilk pancakes with pecans and dulce de leche and tops them pie crust crumbs. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vinnie Paul remembered at Count's Vamp'd
The late rocker's favorite table at one of his favorite clubs in Las Vegas. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
4DX movie experience at Red Rock
4DX movie experience during a demo reel at Red Rock. (Christopher Lawrence/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What To Do On May The 4th
There are plenty of events going on May the 4th this year around Las Vegas. Celebrate Star Wars and Comic Book Day all at once. The Rogue Toys, the 501st, Rebel Legion and Millennium Fandom Bar are all hosting fun events to help celebrate your geek-dom. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Water Sports Introduces New Attraction At Lake Las Vegas
Las Vegas Water Sports will debut its new aqua park attraction at Lake Las Vegas Days this weekend. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Making the Space Invader at Greene St. Kitchen in Las Vegas
Lysa Huerta, pastry cook at Greene St. Kitchen at the Palms in Las Vegas, starts with angel food cake, Fruity Pebbles ice cream and strawberry sorbet to create a space creature engulfed in flashing lights and swirling mists. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Pools
The M, Park MGM and NoMad are just a few great pools in Las Vegas. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jose Andres explains Iberico pork
(Al Mancini/Las Vega Review-Journal)
Inside Life is Beautiful
Craig Asher Nyman explains how Life is Beautiful festival is booked and talks about this year's line-up. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America Pops Up In Vegas
Tattoo'd America, a new pop-up attraction on the Linq Promenade, had their grand opening Friday. The attraction is dedicate to the culture of tattoos. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Jose Andres gets key to the Strip
Chef Jose Andres was presented with a Key to the Las Vegas Strip and a proclamation declaring April 26 Jose Andres Day in Clark County by County Commissioner Tick Segerblom on Friday. The ceremony took place at his restaurant Bazaar Meat in the SLS Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sadelle’s in Las Vegas makes a grilled cheese with an inverted bagel
Michael Vargas, executive sous chef at Sadelle’s at Bellagio in Las Vegas, inverts an everything bagel and grills it with Swiss, cheddar and Muenster cheeses to make the Inverted Bagel Grilled Cheese. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures
Kassandra Lopez at Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Prime rib is carved tableside at Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Las Vegas
Dave Simmons, executive chef of Lawry’s The Prime in Las Vegas, which plans special cuts for National Prime Rib Day, demonstrates the restaurant’s service from rolling tableside carving carts. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making gluten-free pizza at Good Pie in Las Vegas
Good Pie owner/pizzaiola Vincent Rotolo makes his gluten-free pizza.
Rockabilly fans enjoy Las Vegas weather poolside
Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender runs Thursday, April 18th through Sunday, April 21st with a huge car show on Saturday featuring The Reverend Horton Heat, The Delta Bombers and The Coasters. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Brownie sundae at VegeNation in Las Vegas is completely vegan
Donald Lemperle, chef/owner of VegeNation in Las Vegas and nearby Henderson, NV, makes his sundae with ice cream made with coconut and almond milks, a brownie made with coconut flour and oil and organic sugar and cacao, and fresh fruit. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST
Judge blocks Trump from constructing sections of border wall

A federal judge blocked on Friday President Donald Trump from building sections of his long-sought border wall with money secured under his declaration of a national emergency.

Missouri governor signs bill banning abortions at 8 weeks

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Friday signed a bill that bans abortions on or beyond the eighth week of pregnancy without exceptions for cases of rape or incest, making it among the most restrictive abortion policies in the nation.

GOP conservative blocks overdue $19B disaster bill, for now

A House GOP conservative complaining of Washington’s free-spending and opaque ways temporarily blocked a long-overdue $19 billion disaster aid bill on Friday.

 
West Point to graduate record number of black female cadets

The class of cadets preparing to jubilantly toss their caps in the air at the U.S. Military Academy’s graduation ceremony Saturday includes 34 black women, a record number that’s a sign of concerted efforts to diversify West Point’s Long Gray Line.

Abortion opponents widely divided over rape, incest issues

Even as the anti-abortion movement celebrates the sweeping bans passed in several states, it’s divided by a widening rift over whether those prohibitions should apply to victims of rape and incest.

CEOs get $800K pay raise, leaving workers further behind

Pay for CEOs at S&P 500 companies rose to a median of $12 million last year, including salary, stock and other compensation, according to data analyzed by Equilar.