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PHOTOS: Pope delivers mass to 350,000 in Mexico

Pope, 84, dons sombrero, takes to helicopter before mass begins.

Pope Benedict XVI donned a sombrero and blessed the Christ the King statue from a helicopter before conducting an open-air mass for 350,000 people today near Silao, Mexico.

The pope’s 3-day trip continues to endear him to Mexicans, who connected deeply with his predecessor, John Paul II, The Associated Press reported.

Benedict also made special reference to the Virgin Mary during mass, another important icon in Mexico, while speaking to pressing social issues such as drug violence and emigration.

“At this time, when so many families are separated or forced to emigrate, when so many are suffering due to poverty, corruption, domestic violence, drug trafficking, the crisis of values and increased crime, we come to Mary in search of consolation, strength and hope,” the pope said as mass concluded at Bicentennial Park.

“She is the mother of the true God, who invites us to stay with faith and charity beneath her mantle, so as to overcome in this way all evil and to establish a more just and fraternal society.”

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The pope’s words were specifically aimed at continuing drug violence in Mexico, where nearly 50,000 people have died since President Felipe Calderon declared a crackdown in 2006, The New York Times reported.

Discussing emigration is also important to those in Guanajuato, a state with one of the highest rates in Mexico.

“We didn’t have the faith like we did with John Paul II, but, once you get here, you are filled with that emotion,” worshipper Corina Alonso told The Times.

On Monday, the 84-year-old Benedict leaves Mexico for Cuba, where he’s expected to meet President Raul Castro.

He will also mark the 400th anniversary of the Virgin of Charity statue, Cuba’s patron saint.

Earlier, Benedict also aimed criticism at Cuba’s communist rule.

“It is evident that Marxist ideology in the way it was conceived no longer corresponds to reality,” he said, The Guardian reported.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/mexico/120325/pope-benedict-mexico-mass-350000-photos