Many New Mexicans greeted news that Pope Francis might visit Ciudad Juárez, Mexico next year with excitement.
“Super cool!” Daniel R. Sambrano of Doña Ana wrote in a discussion NMPolitics.net facilitated on Facebook. “This might be the only reason I’ll finally cross the border once again. First time in at least 10 years.”
“I’m not Catholic, nor Christian, but I’d love to go see him!” wrote Rose Vargas of Las Cruces.
There’s no certainty the pope will visit Juárez, which is located about 50 miles south of Las Cruces just across the U.S./Mexico border. The Vatican confirmed Tuesday that the pope will make his first trip to Mexico in 2016, probably in the first half of the year. Other than a visit to Mexico City, dates and stops haven’t been determined, the Vatican said.
A Mexican radio reporter cited a source as confirming that the pope will visit Juárez. Other media, including El Diario, which publishes editions in Chihuahua and Juárez in Mexico, and El Paso, Texas, reported on the possible Juárez visit.
The Paso Del Norte region — Juárez, El Paso, and Southern New Mexico — is on the pope’s radar. He considered beginning last month’s visit to the United States by crossing the border from Juárez to El Paso, but ultimately decided against it. The Catholic bishops in Juárez, El Paso and Las Cruces have all sent formal invitations asking the pope to visit the region.
Americans once regularly crossed the border into Juárez for travel, shopping, and other activities. Violence in recent years has dramatically slowed such activity. Today Juárez is safer than it has been in recent years, but the U.S. State Department still advises caution when traveling there.
“Hopefully the holy father can bring peace and stability to that struggling city,” Sambrano wrote on Facebook.
A Juárez visit by the pope — in an American presidential election year — would likely bring attention in the United States to issues including immigration and the war on drugs.
Juárez Catholic Diocese spokesman Hesiquio Trevizo was quoted by El Diario as saying such a trip by the pope “will be very important — because from here, a place that still has violence and criminality, he will speak to the whole world.”
“Our city has very serious problems,” Trevizo was quoted as saying. “Sadly the femicides continue, human life is easily disposed, there is still violence, the world of the migrant is terrible. The press has published that the border is home to human trafficking, child abuse and other things.”