Just over a decade ago in March 2012, Pope Benedict XVI, who died December 31 at the Vatican, made his only visit to Mexico as pontiff, following in the footsteps of his predecessor John Paul II who set foot on Mexican soil five times during his 26-year papacy.
No one really believed Benedict XVI would be able to match the enthusiasm and outpouring of love this country’s 75 million Catholics had shown for John Paul II during his visits here in 1979, 1990, 1993, 1999 and 2002. The warmth and charisma the Polish pontiff had exuded lit a spark in the Mexican religious consciousness that most people believed this staid German successor could never duplicate.
At this time, the Catholic Church was still reeling from the slew of accusations of sexual abuse of children by priests and subsequent cover-ups that had first received media attention in the mid 1990s. The scandal had not bypassed Mexico. Less than two years before Benedict’s visit, the Mexico religious order, the Legion of Christ, finally acknowledged that its founder Marcial Maciel had committed “reprehensible actions,” including the sexual abuse of multiple children over nearly 60 years.