Pope Benedict says Mass for thousands of Mexicans

Pope Benedict has celebrated Mass before tens of thousands of faithful Catholics in the central Mexican city of Silao.

Cheering onlookers waved balloons, flags and banners Sunday as the pope arrived at Bicentennial Park in Mexico’s Guanajuato state.

He urged Mexican Catholics to remain true to their faith to confront the sufferings, difficulties and evils of daily life, saying “human strategies will not suffice.”

The pontiff called on the Virgin Mary to “continue accompanying and protecting her beloved Mexican and Latin American children.” The invocation of Mary is particularly important for Mexicans, who revere the Virgin of Guadalupe as their patron saint.

Benedict’s visit to Mexico comes as church leaders there grapple with brutal drug-related violence. More than 50,000 people have been killed since President Felipe Calderón launched a crackdown on the drug cartels in 2006.

The pope is scheduled to arrive today in Cuba, where he will meet with President Raúl Castro and visit Santiago de Cuba and Havana.

Saturday Pope Benedict addressed thousands of cheering Mexicans from the balcony of the Casa Del Conde Rul, where he met with President Calderón.

Benedict told the throng “I wish to lift up my voice, inviting everyone to protect and to care for children, so that nothing may extinguish their smile.”

The 84-year-old pope made the comments about protecting children amid complaints about the Vatican’s handling of the case of a prominent priest in Mexico, Marcial Maciel, who was facing allegations of molesting young boys before he died. While the pope has met with the survivors of priest pedophilia in other countries, no such meeting is scheduled for Mexico.

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