Pope praises 'enthusiastic' Mexicans
Leon - Pope Benedict XVI said he now understood why Jean Paul II said he felt "like a Mexican pope", after breaking protocol, donning a sombrero and meeting with Mexicans late on Sunday.
The pope stepped out of the Miraflores College where he was staying in Leon, central Mexico, at the end of his first visit to Mexico, where he sought to boost the Catholic faith in the face of violence at a vast open-air mass.
"Dear friends, thank you very much for this enthusiasm," the 84-year-old pope said in Italian as Mexican mariachi musicians serenaded him in the street.
"I've made many trips and I've never been received with so much enthusiasm."
"Mexico will always be in my heart. Now I understand why John Paul II said: 'I feel like a Mexican pope'," he added, provoking cheers of "Benedict, brother, now you're Mexican," from the crowd.
John Paul II made five visits to Mexico, after the country renewed diplomatic relations with the Holy See 20 years ago, and always attracted hundreds of thousands of faithful in the country of 112 million where 84% have been baptised.
The visit, Benedict's first to Spanish-speaking Latin America, has sought to promote peace and boost a decline in believers on what is still the world's most Catholic continent.
The pope is due to leave on Monday afternoon for communist Cuba.