Earlier this year, Pope Francis made a historic trip throughout the United States, including to Washington D.C. where a number of New Mexicans saw the Pope speak on the White House South Lawn.
Next year, Pope Francis is scheduled to make another trip even closer to New Mexico—but across a border.
He will be visiting the Mexican state of Chihuahua and possibly even the city of Juarez, which borders El Paso, Texas.
From the El Paso Times:
The head of the Vatican advance team, Alberto Gasparri, was in Juarez on Nov. 4 to identify and evaluate places were the pontiff might visit and celebrate Mass, as well as to assess security and logistics issues, Lamadrid said.
And in a development Wednesday night, Juárez Mayor Enrique Serrano Escobar urged Juárez residents to get ready for the pope’s visit.
“I ask all citizens to prepare for this visit which has no precedent in the history of Juárez,” Serrano said. “It will be many years and generations before a pope returns to Juárez and I think these are extraordinary circumstances for our city.”
Mexico is among the most heavily-Catholic countries on the planet. In total, 85 percent of the population identifies as Catholic (as of a 2010 Pew study) which is over 96 million. Only Brazil, with nearly 127 million, has a higher population of Catholics.
A trip to Mexico brings up a possibility that Francis raised before his trip to the United States; Francis told reporters ahead of that trip that he wanted to walk across the border between the United States and Mexico to support immigrants.
The Huffington Post reported in its Latino Voices section about Francis’ declaration.
“To enter the United States from the border with Mexico would be a beautiful gesture of brotherhood and support for immigrants,” Francis told reporters aboard the papal airplane returning to Rome from the Philippines.
He added, jokingly, that he wouldn’t be able to visit Mexico unless he had time to pay homage to the widely revered Virgen de Guadalupe at the basilica in Mexico City.
On that visit, Francis traveled to three cities, all on the East Coast.
While in Philadelphia, Francis encouraged immigrants and told them that he felt “particular affection” for them.
The trip to Mexico is scheduled for February of 2016.