Pope Francis visit to Mexico includes anti-pope sentiment

DEVIL horns and the numbers "666" adorning Pope Francis' face are not uncommon along the very streets shut down for his visit.

With the head of Catholicism plastered on phone boxes on just about every block in Mexico City, there could not be a single resident oblivious to the arrival of El Papa Francisco.

And not everyone is happy about it.

Local media is reporting about two million people have descended on the city, nearing 10 million people already, in the hope they will catch a glimpse or even be in his presence.

Buses from the United States and visitors from all over Latin America have made the pilgrimage.

The influx has caused traffic chaos across the city with gridlocks causing long delays for commuters and tourists.

As roads closed throughout the city in preparation for the pope's arrival on Friday night (Saturday lunch time in Australia), the traffic snarl worsened.

Mexico's President and First Lady greeted El Papa when he arrived at 7.30pm local time.

Thousands crowded around huge screens set up throughout the city to watch him meet with children while dance groups and singers honoured him.

Once he moved from the lengthy red carpet stretching from the plane to the pope mobile, he witnessed a sea of lights from people waving him along his motorcade route.

Many also braved the morning chill to cram along his route to the historic city centre where he addressed dignitaries on Saturday (early Sunday in Australia).

As the pope mobile made its way through the huge crowd, he kissed baby heads, embraced sick and disabled people, and waved to the masses.

After a welcoming ceremony at the National Palace, El Papa Francisco addressed civil authorities and diplomats.

He then blessed a cross with a kiss as he entered the nearby cathedral and addressed Mexican bishops - reportedly urging them to challenge threats from the drug trade and corruption in their nation and not hide behind their own privilege and careers.

The cheers from the crowd every time they caught a glimpse of the Holy Father must be usual for the man himself but for Mexicans, they felt blessed just to be in his presence.

Devotees will no doubt snap up cardboard pope cut-outs tied to barriers every 10 metres along blocked off roads and to temporary grandstands when the fanfare winds up.

On the plus side, the streets could not be safer.

It would not be an exaggeration to say there are police on nearly every corner.

But Mexico News Daily has reported this week's visit to comes as the number of Catholics declines.

The Daily says National Statistics Institute figures show 98% of Mexicans declared themselves Catholic in the 1950s compared to by 2010.

"The number could be even lower as many Mexicans are nominal Catholics, and in reality never participate in their church's sacraments or rites," it reads.

But the Pew Research Centre says Mexicans have remained tied to their Catholic faith when compared to people in other Latin American countries.

"Across Latin America, the portion of people who identify as Catholic has declined considerably in recent decades, from at least 90% in the 1960s to 69% in 2014," according to a 2014 report from the centre.

"But the trend away from Catholicism has been less pronounced in Mexico, where 81% of adults identify as Catholic today, compared with 90% who say they were raised Catholic."

During his visit, Pope Francis is expected to authorise indigenous language use during mass and have meetings about immigration.



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