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Pope Dishes Out Tough Love To Mexico's Rich, Political Elite


Pope Francis meets today with indigenous leaders in southern Mexico. And in an unprecedented move, he'll authorize the use of their languages in official religious celebrations. Bold statements like that have been the pontiff's MO during his trip to Mexico. He spent most of the weekend dishing out tough love to the country's political elites and even to some of his own church leaders. Here's NPR's Carrie Kahn.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: The crowds have been large and lively during the pope's first days in Mexico, with hundreds of thousands clamoring to catch a glimpse of Francis as he speeds down Mexico City's streets in his open-air popemobile. While the 79-year-old pontiff has been enjoying the street parties, stopping to bless the faithful and even trying on ornate sombreros, he hasn't shied away from Mexico's current troubles.



KAHN: At Sunday mass, the pope urged the 300,000 gathered in a poorsuburb outside the capital to transform their country into a land of opportunity.


POPE FRANCIS: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "Where there will be no need to emigrate in order to dream and no need to be exploited in order to work," he said. And the Pope added, "let's work together to make Mexico a place that will no longer mourn its people destroyed at the hands of the traffickers of death." Adelina Plata says the pontiff's visit to Mexico couldn't have been better-timed.

ADELINA PLATA: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: The 60-year-old housewife says the country is suffering economically, politically and with too much crime. It is a tough time for Mexico. The peso has plunged, and poverty is growing, as well as organized crime violence and corruption. The president, his wife and top officials have all been recently embroiled in conflict of interest scandals. Hoping to boost his sagging popularity, the president stood next to the pope at the official ceremony Saturday in Mexico City's National Palace, filled with the country's top officials. That didn't deter Francis from taking aim at Mexico's political elite. The country needs upright men and women, honest and capable of working for the common good, said the pontiff.


POPE FRANCIS: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "Because experience has shown us that every time we choose the path benefitting the privileged few," said the pope," it provides fertile ground for corruption, drug trade violence and human suffering. Francis, however, saved his sternest speech for the country's bishops and cardinals gathered inside Mexico City's Metropolitan Cathedral. To tepid applause, the pope warned them to stop catering to the rich and powerful at the expense of the indigenous and poor.


POPE FRANCIS: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "Do not allow yourselves to be corrupted by trivial materialism or by the seductive illusion of underhanded agreements," said the pope in an unusual public rebuke of the church's weak defense of Mexico's drug war victims. Standing in a large crowd waiting to catch a glimpse at the pope yesterday, Mari Nedi said she was happy to hear Francis speak out so strongly.

MARI NEDI: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "I just hope that his words penetrate the hearts of our leaders," she said. "They have a lot of room for improvement." Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Mexico City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on

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