SILAO, GUANAJUATO (Khou.com) - Busloads of federal police swarmed Silao, Guanjuato, the first stop for Pope Benedict XVI who arrives in Mexico Friday.
The Pope is scheduled to touch down Friday afternoon (5:30 p.m. Central) for a four-day visit. Ahead of his visit Mexico has mobilized a massive security force that includes more than 13,000 federal, state and local police officers as well as soldiers.
“They’ll have automatic weapons, etc. and I don’t want to be around there at all, “ said Bill Kerchner, an American on vacation in San Miguel de Allende, about 75 miles from Leon and the two other cities the Pope will visit during a four-day trip to Mexico.
Americans sitting in front of San Miguel de Allende’s pink stone church were relieved they did not have to cope with tight security or crowds since this city is not on the Pope’s route.
Pope Benedict XVI chose the deeply Catholic, conservative state of Guanajuato for his first visit to Mexico.
Earlier this week Mexican poet and peace activist Javier Sicilia visited the Vatican to deliver a letter asking the Pope to use his trip to Mexico to remember the victims of drug violence.
“In their name, for this, us, for this body, I have come to Rome, Benedict to ask that in your visit to Mexico you embrace it, before anyone, as the Father embraced the pained and murdered body of Christ,” said Sicilia who led a peace march through Mexico after his teenage son was murdered.
A few days before the Pope’s arrival a drug cartel operating in Guanajuato, the Knight’s Templar, hung banners in 11 cities welcoming Pope Benedict XVI, and promising not to disturb the peace during his visit.
The Pope can expect a warm welcome from crowds of Catholics expected to line the streets along the route he will use in the Pope mobile Friday afternoon.
Over the weekend, the Pope meets with President Felipe Calderon and Latin American Bishops. He will celebrate a huge mass on top of hill in the shadow of a huge cross of “Christ the King” that is a monument to those who died in Mexico’s Cristero War, a Catholic rebellion that fought Mexico’s anti-clerical government in the 1920s.
More than 50,000 people have died in the last five-and-half years as drug cartels clashed over territory and smuggling routes leading to the U.S. and confronted government forces sent to restore order in lawless regions, especially along the border.
“We need peace and security,” said Araceli Aguilar, 65, a resident of Leon, Guanajuato who hoped the Pope would say a special prayer for Mexico.