In what is expected to be one of the most defining moments of his Papacy, Pope Francis will today lay a wreath and pray at the US/Mexico border in memory of the more than 6,000 immigrants who have lost their lives attempting to cross into America.
Thousands will be watching from the US side of the Rio Grande as the Pope blesses the crowd, which will include both citizens and undocumented immigrants. The blessing follows an open-air Mass at a fairground some 300 feet from the border, where up to 250,000 people are expected to attend.
The blessing at the border completes the Pope’s six-day tour of Mexico before his return to Rome, and is seen as a defining act as leading Republican Presidential candidates in the US talk massive walls and mass deportation (more on Pope Francis and immigration here).
“The gesture has already drawn the combative attention of GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump—who called the pope a “political person” on Fox Business news last week who doesn’t understand “the danger of the open border that we have with Mexico.” But here in Juarez, the hopeful of another sort have been pressing into the city all day. They have been imploring Pope Francis to use his influence to encourage U.S. policymakers to consider a more humane approach to the complicated problem of U.S.-Mexico migration, to help bring their families, separated by the border fence and the collapse of U.S. immigration reform efforts, together again. Francis may be preparing to give them what they want.”
The Pope’s schedule for today, February 17 (Central Standard Time):
8:35 a.m. Departure by plane for Ciudad Juárez
10:00 a.m. Arrival at Abraham González International Airport in Ciudad Juárez
10:30 a.m. Visit to Cereso 3 prison(Discourse by the Holy Father)
Noon Meeting with the World of Work at the Colegio de Bachilleres dello Stato of Chihuahua (Discourse by the Holy Father)
4:30 p.m. Holy Mass at the fairgrounds of Ciudad Juárez (Homily and greeting by the Holy Father), followed by a blessing at the Rio Grande
7:00 p.m. Departure ceremony at Ciudad Juárez International Airport
7:15 p.m. Departure by plane for Rome (Ciampino Airport)
The Pope’s Mass in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, followed by his pilgrimage to the Rio Grande, will be livestreamed below.