Pope begins his Juarez Farewell / Photo: Televisa

Pope Francis: Journey to Paso del Norte – By The Minute

El Paso Herald-Post Newsroom – FINAL UPDATE 7:45 – Our Herald-Post crew – Alexandra Hinojosa, Lolie Aguirre, Andres Acosta – Thank you for following along with us in this historic event.

7:40 – The big Boeing’s GE Turbofans spool up, and just like that Pope Francis’ historic visit to Juarez is over, but the feelings and the memories will live on for some time to come.

7:37 – The tug disengages, now the plane stands alone; FAA lights alternating red and white against the dark Juarez night, the cabin lights glowing from one end of the aircraft to the other like a diamond necklace; the Aztec Warrior face on the plane’s vertical stabilizer seemingly the only one not crying at the airport.

7:30 – Like a kitten rubbing up against the leg of a powerful racehorse, the tug has pushed the jet into takeoff position. The Mexican President, and about 80% of the crowd are still on the tarmac waving, as if to hold on to the Pope and the feeling until the very last possible second.

7:22 – Tug hooks up to the massive front gear of the Boeing 787, carefully towing it down the runway, into the rapidly cooling darkness of the Chihuahuan Desert;  Mariachis playing another sweetly sad song as the darkness slowly swallows the gleaming white, widebody jet. Some in the crowd now openly weeping, as they wave goodbye using gold and white Papal flags. This lump in my throat is getting bigger.

7:18 – A turn from the Pontiff, a bow, a sign of the cross and he re-entered the AeroMexico 787 dubbed ‘Missionary of Peace.’  Once seated, Pope Francis waved at the crowd one final time, from his seat just forward of the leading edge of the wings.  More tears from those in the crowd, cheering and some sobbing.  Another lump in my throat.

7:15 – Accompanied by the simple horns, strings, bass, and guitar of the Mexican bittersweet song ‘Adios,’ Pope Francis bid goodbye to Juarez; tears rolling down the faces of many of the well-wishers gathered on the tarmac of Juarez’s airport.  Lump in my throat.

6:58 – Pope Francis enters the farewell area with the Mexican President and First Lady. Halfway down the red carpet, several children hop up on small stage to hug the Pontiff, who returns the gesture.

6:39 – Full on fiesta at the Juarez Airport, Mariachis playing, Folklorico dancers all performing in front of the grandstands; Pope Francis has arrived, will get the official send off by the Mexican President.

6:25 – With Mexican Federal Police leading the way, the Dodge Ram Popemobile is carrying the Holy Father back to Juarez Airport; the rear of the truck where he’s riding lit by a bright bluish-white light – similar to the hundreds of thousands cellphones  being held aloft by residents along the route.  These crowds at least as large as the ones from the morning, if not larger.

6:08 – Post-Mass performances continue at ‘El Punto’, crowd does not appear to have thinned out at all.

5:55 – As Pope Francis leaves ‘El Punto,’ remaining Priests gather on stage, cell phones out, taking photos of crowd as orchestra and choir sing.

5:48 – Pope closing the mass with the final blessing, ending with “Please do not forget to pray for me.” Loud Cheers, now chanting ‘Francisco is our Friend.’

5:45 – Pontiff: Today, feeling the faith of the young and of this city, at times I felt like crying.  Thank you so much for your gracious Mexican hospitality.

5:40 – Pontiff: I want to give thanks to Lord for allowing me this visit to Mexico. Mexico you are a surprise. (Cheers)  I have felt welcomed by this grand family of Mexico.  The night can be long and dark, but here…in this city…there are many points of light and faith…and that’s what will keep this country from falling into the darkness.

Photo courtesy EWTN
Photo courtesy EWTN

5:35 – Mass drawing to a close, representative from the Diocese of Juarez thanking the Holy Father, on behalf of the faithful from both sides of the Rio Grande; And promising that – thanks to his visit – the church and residents have been re-energized and blessed by his visit. Pope presents a gift, to the cheers of “Viva…Papa!”

5:25 – The bestowing of peace on each other and Communion underway.

502 – Members of the community present their prayers for the region

458 –  Pontiff: Thanks to technology, we can pray as one community. Thank you, all of you here and in El Paso for making us feel as one community….one Christian Family. Cheers in Juarez and in El Paso.

Sunset at El Punto / Photo courtesy Televisa
Sunset at El Punto / Photo courtesy Televisa

4:56 – Pontiff – No more death or exploitation…there is time to change.  All of us can put a stop to the cycle of violence and exclusion.

4:53 – Pontiff: The Humanitarian Crisis, shown by the thousands who have traveled hard roads trying to reach a better life – they are brothers and sisters fleeing violence – trapping the poorest of us all in injustices such as human trafficking, drugs and violence.

4:51 – Tears will open up ourselves for conversion, opening us up for change.

4:47 – Readings from the Bible are over, now Pope Francis delivers his Homily.

4:33 – Mass is underway

4:30 – Pope Francis now making his way up the stairs at the altar, crowd holding phones, tablets recording event; same scene some 5 miles away at the simulcast at the Sun Bowl. Mass set to start shortly.

4:22 – Local priests getting ready for Mass as choirs sing, crowd is absolutely silent as they sing; now announcer says Holy Mass about to start. Choirs singing once again, music filling fairgrounds as some in the crowd sing along, tears in their eyes.

Pope Francis ascends the ramp at El Punto to bless the border and its residents / Photo courtesy Channel 44
Pope Francis ascends the ramp at El Punto to bless the border and its residents / Photo courtesy Channel 44

4:12 – Popemobile stopped on levee road at ‘El Punto,’ Holy Father made his way up the long ramp to pray for both countries, praying for those who died crossing the border, those who made it, and for entire region. Crowd roaring on both sides of border. Historic.

4:10 – Pope now completely surrounded by hundreds of thousands the faithful, largest crowds of the day as he makes his way behind the altar/stage area. Near-constant screaming can be heard over the ‘Francisco Es’ song blasting over the massive speakers set up for Mass.

4:06 After what one could call a Papal Victory Lap, Pope Francis now makes his way to the old fairgrounds, site of the altar and stage that workers and craftsmen built in record time.

4:02 – Pope Francis has arrived at El Punto, hundreds of thousands of the faithful have gathered for the Papal Mass; making a lap around the Benito Juarez Olympic Stadium, people watching from the soccer field are running to keep up with the Popemobile

Pope Francis by Kevin Venegas
Pope Francis by Kevin Venegas

3:53 – Pontiff now on the highway to ‘El Punto,’ passing the new, large sculpture known as ‘The X;’ entering the Mexican side of the land handed over in the Chamizal Agreement in the 1960’s. He’s less than a mile from the US/Mexico border.

345 – After a break, Pope Francis is on the move once again, heading over to the site of the historic mass near the border. Crowds along the route as large as the ones before his lunch break.

1:15 – Pope Francis arrives at the Juarez Seminary for lunch and a quick rest before the mass this afternoon at the border. Pontiff expected to eat, then nap for 20-30 minutes.

1:05 – The Papal convoy continues to weave its way through the streets of Juarez, the crowds growing thicker by the block; more Papal flags and many more gold and white balloons being released now, crowd singing as the vehicles pass by.

12:58 – Pope returns to his Dodge Ram RT Popemobile and they are on the move once again. They’re headed to a seminary for a private event before the large mass this afternoon.

1245 – He ends with homework for managers, employers and business owners to treat the worker better, with respect, to make Juarez – and the world – a better place.

12:38 – The gym is as silent as a small chapel as the Pontiff speaks on workers, their value and what society needs to teach the young about hard work and respect for the worker. He asks: What does Mexico want to leave for their children…a memory of low wages, abuse and disrespect or a culture of respect for the worker.

12:26 – Officials from the school present Pope Francis with a small sculpture, silver flowers in a silver vase; crowd begins to chant their love for the Pontiff once again. Representative of maquila worker, who has never missed a day of work 20 years, meets Pope and presents him with a gift.

12:21 – Speaker tells Pontiff, crowd: the worker is the backbone of the society you speak of…as important as the values of the family and the church, and should be respected as such.  An honest job reinforces all the values you speak of and hold dear.

12:17 – Speaker ‘warns’ Pope Francis:  once you drink the water of Juarez, you’ll want to stay in Juarez forever.

12:05 – Pontiff arrives at Bachilleres, the gymnasium is legitimately packed to the rafters, all chanting the Pope’s name; Pope Francis has not stopped smiling since he walked in.

12:00 – As the Pope’s convoy makes its way to the gymnasium at the Bachilleres, the thousands gathered along the route are waving yellow and white Papal flags, as he passes their location, balloons are released.

11:55 – Pontiff has left CeReSo, now entering the main part of the city, crowds along the street growing, en route to college (Bachilleres) for lunch.

11:36 – Pontiff concludes by once again asking everyone to pray for him. Now making way around the prisoner’s area, interacting with the rest of the crowd that did not make the stage. To a person, not a dry eye in the house.

11:31 – As Pope Francis asks everyone to pray silently, scores of prisoners in the crowd already have their head bowed, sobbing. Others are looking skyward, tears streaming down their faces.

11:24 – Pope Francis says “now that you have felt the pain of your sins…now feel the power of the resurrection…build yourself a new life after this pain.”

Pope Francis at CeReSo / Courtesy Televisa
Pope Francis at CeReSo / Courtesy Televisa

11:17 – Pope Francis now speaking to crowd at CeReSo Prison; talking of society’s responsibility to fix those issues that lead to so many persons ending up in prison.  Says it is a ‘moral imperative’ to not only fix this, but to include all people in the solution.

11:11 Procession continues, now male prisoners making their way past the Pope, some have gone to their knees upon approaching the Pontiff, others respectfully kiss his hand. A couple of tearful hugs exchanged as well.

11:07 – As Mariachis play, Pope Francis greeting select group of female prisoners as they make their way onto the stage. Some shake hands nervously and kiss the Pontiff’s cheek, others bow their heads, sobbing and shaking with emotion. Pope taking time with each, tenderly.

1055 – Pope Francis now in prison common area, on stage, as series of speakers give testimony to the need of faith and the ability to change lives.  Pope listening intently, leaning forward.  Prisoners, male and female, clad in sky-blue outfits, are seated in rapt silence.

10:50 – In his first public statement in Juarez, standing in the prisoner-built chapel, Pope Francis thanked everyone for the warm welcome, said the most fragile thing is life, and Christ on the Cross represents that fragility. He then said a brief prayer and then asked all in attendance to pray for him.

10:45 – Pontiff makes his way inside new chapel built and furnished by CeReSo prisoners – as hundreds of them stand off to one side, all seemingly at attention. Will start speaking shortly.

10:43 – Pope Francis now inside prison common area, riding in golf cart, trailed by prison officials his entourage.

Pope Francis at CeReSo Prison in Juarez / Photo: Televisa
Pope Francis at CeReSo Prison in Juarez / Photo: Televisa

10:39 Now making turn into the CeReSo Prison, passing through security gates. Now exited the Dodge Popemobile, walking among families of those jailed in the prison.


10:32 Papal convoy making its way through streets of Juarez, crowd several people deep waving home-made signs, Papal Flags as Pope Francis motors by.


Alexandra Hinojosa: Abraham González International Airport in Juarez10:25 Pope, in specially-constructed Popemobile (Dodge Ram pickup truck) now moves to the head of the Papal Convoy to make their way to the CeReSo Prison. Crowd continues to sing and wave as they depart.

10:23 – Pontiff has now stopped the Popemobile, approaching crowd praying with young girl, parent before making way to the ropeline, handing him flowers.

pope in motion10:20 – Pope has now made his way to the iconic Popemobile, now driving in front of wildly cheering, waving crowd; Child passed to him from crowd, Pope Francis gently blesses him.

10:12 – Pope Francis emerges from the plane, huge cheer erupts, children now singing special song “Francisco es”; Pontiff now making his way down the line of greeters and officials




Photo courtesy: ABC7
Photo courtesy: ABC7

10:10 – As officials and greeters walk down the jetway to the base of the stairs to greet the Pope, On the aircraft, just below the door, it says ‘Missionary of Peace’



10:05 – The AeroMexico 787 is now in position in front of the grandstand, thousands cheering, waving. Stairs set to be moved into position.

10:00 – Crowd erupted in cheers, now singing ‘Mexico Lindo’ and chanting

plane9:56 – 
Pontiff has touched down in Juarez; plane now moving to the reception area.


pope crowdAs of 9:41, flight tracking website has the Pope about 19 minutes away from landing.

Several hundred are lined up along the streets that lead up to the airport for a chance to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis. At the airport, 5,000 await to greet him. Of those are 3,000 children from Catholic and schools; 2,000 consist of several people suffering from an ailment.

At the airport, several Bishops from Juarez, Las Cruces and El Paso Bishop Mark Seitz. In addition, Rev. Luis Maldonado said the Mayor of Juarez, Javier Gonzalez will present the Pontiff with a key to the city and eight children will present flowers to him.


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