Pope sets off for Mexico, Cuba trip

2012-03-23 12:03
Rome - Pope Benedict XVI sets off on an arduous journey to Latin America on Friday where he will address key issues including the war on drugs in Mexico and the evolution of the communist regime in Cuba.

In his first trip to Spanish-speaking Latin America, the pontiff, who turns 85 next month, will visit Silao, Leon and Guanajuato in Mexico from March 23 to 26, before heading on to Santiago de Cuba and Havana in Cuba for two days.

In Mexico, where the war on drug trafficking has killed 50 000 people in five years, Benedict XVI is expected to condemn the violence of cartels, some of whom claim to be Catholic but who are terrorising regions in the north.

In the overwhelmingly Catholic country - where 83% of the population has been baptised - the pope will tackle what the Church sees as threats to family values, as well as the rise of rival religious movements.

But he is also likely to face criticism over the clerical abuse scandal.

Strengthening relations

In particular, he will face questions over the Vatican's management of Mexico's most famous offender, Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legion of Christ, who before he died faced accusations that he had molested eight minors.

In Cuba, where the Catholic community only makes up around 10% of the populace, the pope will hope to strengthen relations with the communist regime.

He will have to tread carefully to avoid friction between the state and the Church, which plays a leading role in the island's social sector.

While Benedict XVI may address the issue of democracy, he will be careful to make sure his words cannot fuel dissidents, who have held a series of protests aimed at pressurising the pope into tackling the Cuba government on rights.

- SAPA
Read more on:    catholic church  |  pope benedict xvi  |  cuba  |  mexico  |  child abuse  |  mexico drug war  |  religion
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