Pope Francis hasn’t even made it to the Americas yet, but he’s already making news about his much-anticipated Mexico visit next week. The pontiff will stand with migrants in the bordertown of Ciudad Juárez in a show of solidarity according to the Wall Street Journal. People on both sides of the border are split on the issue: some think the move to side with migrants fleeing north from Central America and Mexico sends a political message, not a religious one.
“The truth is, we’re united in many ways across our border,” said El Paso Bishop Mark Seitz, who will greet the pope, told the Los Angeles Times. “A high percentage of people in El Paso have relatives in Juárez or send their children to school there or work there. Our geography, our history unites us.”
The Vatican has confirmed that Pope Francis’s six-day Mexico visit will end with a mass held in Ciudad Juárez on February 17. Ticket for the mass are on sale and 200,000 people are expected to show up in the Mexico side of the border. Another 50,000 will be in El Paso watching the Mass from Sun Bowl stadium. Another 70,000 volunteers, from the U.S. and Mexico, are expected to form a human chain to protect Pope Francis’s drive from the airport to the location where Mass will be held.
“This is one community despite the fence,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told reporters on Tuesday, according to the Wall Street Journal. “I think it will be moving to see this single community even though it is located on two sides of the border.”