Related topics

Pope Meets Mexico’s Affluent

January 25, 1999

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ A day after ministering to the masses, Pope John Paul II reached out to the rich Monday, celebrating a private Mass for bankers, politicians and other church patrons.

The Vatican also condemned the latest U.S. bombing raids on Iraq, just a day before the pope was to meet President Clinton in St. Louis.

At the Vatican’s nunciate, or embassy, in Mexico City, well-dressed couples climbed out of luxury cars for the gathering, offering a stark contrast to Sunday’s exuberant Mass before an estimated 1 million people at a dusty, trash-filled auto racetrack.

John Paul urged some 250 bankers, politicians, donors and charity leaders to ``strengthen the spirit″ by bringing religious values to public life, said Carlos Medina Plascencia, an opposition leader in the Chamber of Deputies.

The pope also urged them to remember Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo, who was killed with his driver and five other people in a spray of gunfire at the Guadalajara airport while waiting to receive papal nuncio Geronimo Prigione in 1993.

The federal Attorney General’s Office concluded that Posadas Ocampo was shot by mistake, confused for a drug lord by a rival gang. Catholic bishops here have rejected that conclusion _ noting Posadas Ocampo was a well-known figure _ and called for the case to be re-opened.

The pope and a cardinal distributed communion at the Mass.

Outside, dozens of ordinary Mexicans waited in the 35-degree cold just to be near him.

``We should all be together. Rich and poor come from the same Lord,″ said Maria Angela Velazquez, 69. ``We should all be equal, but there is no equality on this Earth.

``We must remember that we do not take money to heaven, but our works and sacrifices. I am going to take the richness of spirit.″

On this trip, his fourth to Mexico, the pope has stressed the need to preach to both rich and poor. Critics have contended that in recent years, sectors of the church have swung too far toward a radical ``preference for the poor″ after favoring the powerful earlier.

On the pope’s trips abroad, he routinely holds private Masses for political and business leaders and church patrons.

The pope leaves Tuesday morning for St. Louis, where he will meet Clinton, speak to a youth rally and celebrate Mass before 100,000 people.

In what was expected to be a major point of discussion in the meeting with Clinton, the Vatican condemned the latest U.S. bombing raids on southern Iraq on Monday.

In a statement issued by spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the Vatican said the military action ``confirms once again″ the pope’s belief that ``military measures don’t resolve problems in themselves, rather they aggravate them.″

Iraq claimed that U.S. missiles struck at least two residential areas in and around the southern Iraqi city of Basra. Iraq said several people were killed and dozens wounded.

Monday evening, John Paul was to preside over a farewell ``meeting of the generations″ expected to draw more than 110,000 to Azteca Stadium, Mexico’s largest soccer stadium.

The event _ John Paul’s final public appearance in Mexico _ was to feature television hookups with cities across the Americas, from Los Angeles to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The frail, 78-year-old pontiff has used his five-day visit to outline church strategy throughout the Americas for the start of the new millennium.

He signed a declaration containing that strategy. It condemned the evils of exploitative capitalism, drug trafficking, corruption, and ``the culture of death″ that kills through abortion, euthanasia and capital punishment.

He also urged Catholics to more vigorously defend their faith against Protestant sects that have made inroads in Latin America.

Part of the millennium strategy involves bringing civic leaders back into contact with the church. In recent years, the pope said, ``pastoral care for the leading sectors of society has been neglected and many people have thus been estranged from the Church,″ leading to policies ``alien to Gospel.″

But perhaps most important, the pope renewed his relationship with Mexicans, whom he has adored _ and who have adored him _ since the first trip of his papacy in 1979.

Outside Azteca stadium, a group of 40 girls in an Opus Dei group from the western city of Guadalajara pleaded for extra tickets; 10 members of the group had arrived without any. Hours before the event was to start, they had already found four.

Said 17-year-old Mariana Estrada: ``Miracles do happen here.″

Update hourly