As Pope Francis’ visit to Ciudad Juárez nears, the Catholic Diocese of El Paso and its parishioners are preparing a spiritual bouquet to present to the pontiff.
The pope will be visiting Ciudad Juárez on Feb. 17 – his final stop during his visit to Mexico, which is set to begin on Feb. 12 in Mexico City according to the Juárez Dioceses. Prior to his visit to Juárez the pope will be in Ecatepec, Mexico on Feb. 14, then onto Tuxtla Guiterrez, San Cristobal de las Casas on Feb. 15 and finally Morelia on Feb. 16 before arriving to Juarez on Feb. 17.
It is not known when the spiritual bouquet will be presented to the pontiff during his visit to Juarez on Feb. 17.
The spiritual bouquet, which consists of hundreds of decorative paper doves, which represent acts of mercy each parishioner has either done or promises to do during this year of Mercy for the Catholic Church.
Wednesday is the last day parishioners have to submit their acts of mercy to their parishes.
“The spiritual bouquet is a gift from the whole diocese for the Pope,” said Veronica Rayas, director of the office of religious formation for the diocese in an email response to the El Paso Herald Post.
“All parishes are working on it and we will get everything back from them in time to get the gift ready for the Bishop to present to the Pope in Juárez. Everyone is doing different acts of mercy as their offering. Then the parishes are making mercy walls where all their doves are shown. A heart punch is taken from each dove and then they (the heart punch) are collected to make up the gift.”
At St. Mark’s Catholic Church, 11700 Pebble Hills Dr., the spiritual doves float above the entrance to the church, with hundreds more surrounding the large crucifix at the alter. This large display of doves makes up the mercy wall for the church.
Monsignor Arturo Bañuelas said the bouquet was a physical representation of acts of mercy.
“He (the pope) doesn’t want to have more things. He doesn’t want gifts,” Bañuelas said. “But he does bring a spiritual renewal to the church. So, by doing acts of mercy the church is getting renewed. Each one (act of mercy) represents one person, an adult, a child, who has said this year they are going to do an
act of mercy. And there are hundreds.”
The collection of the acts of mercy began around January, Bañuelas said.“And it just caught fire,” he said.
Bañuelas said the spiritual renewal of the church, through these act of mercy, isn’t meant to be a one-time event.
“Because if you do it once (an act of mercy), then you are likely to do it more than once because it taps into the goodness of your heart,” he said. “And once it taps into your goodness you want to keep doing good things.”
Bañuelas will be among several of the El Paso Diocese priests that will be at the Papal Mass in Juárez, scheduled for 4 p.m. at El Punto, located outside of the Benito Juárez Olympic Stadium.
The Pope’s full agenda, according to the El Paso and Juárez Dioceses for Feb. 17 is as follows:
10 a.m., the pope will arrive at the Juárez International Airport.
10:30 a.m., the pope will take a motorcade to visit inmates at the Cereso Prison.
12 p.m., the pontiff will then meet with 3,600 business leaders and workers at the Colegío Bachilleres.
After his visit the Pope will then take a lunch break at the Juárez Seminary and prepare for his Mass at 4 p.m.
4 p.m. the Papal Mass will begin at the area known as El Punto, just outside of the Benito Juárez Olympic Stadium.
6 p.m. arrive at the Juárez International Airport for departure to Rome.
If you’ve missed any of our coverage on the upcoming Papal visit, click to read Pope Francis: Journey to Paso del Norte