Andres Acosta was in Juarez on Wednesday, February 17, when Pope Francis made his historic visit to our sister city. Andres, as well as reporter Alexandra Hinojosa, were there from start to finish – along with Lolie Aguirre in El Paso – covering the event.
Usually this would be a “Story in Six Pics” but with all the pictures, we couldn’t hold back.
Now you get to see what he saw, and what we haven’t used in our other Pope Francis stories, please enjoy these photos of his visit; and if you decide to copy/paste/repost, just make sure you give him credit for his hard work.
Let’s start with a full disclosure so there’s no confusion: I’m Catholic.
I was raised Catholic and I was educated at two Catholic schools – Loretto Academy for pre-school; and St. Pius X Catholic School from the first through the eighth grades. In high school the cost of a private education was too much.
So, it was my parents’ decision that I attend a public school for my four years of High School.
It was scary at first – not knowing anyone and making new friends – but in all honesty I think it was the best decision they ever made – in fact, it was in high school that my yearbook advisor opened my eyes to this career. And besides, my Catholic education continued through the Catholic Church, as I sought to get confirmed.
I also have a godmother/aunt who was and still is my guide to the Catholic teachings of the church – and whenever I stray or don’t attend Church for a while she reminds me – or does it without even saying anything.
In all honesty, if this were a confession booth, I’d confess that I haven’t been to church for oh…longer than I’d like to admit, and there are times that I’ve come to question my faith.
Wednesday was not one of those times.
I went into the mass as a journalist, but as soon as Pope Francis spoke, I became an active participant.
I did my best to take photos and work – but his presence just feet away from me was at times too much. I found myself repeating the prayers and saying them along with everyone.
When we were asked to say, “peace be with you” – or shake hands with a stranger as a sign of peace – I was happy to find that another fellow journalist offered his.
And then came the moments of prayer – I cried.
I would like to say it was the lack of sleep I had the night before in anticipation for the day’s historical event; the blazing heat of the sun; and the pain in my feet and legs from all the walking, running and standing that I had done all day – but it wasn’t.
The tears only came when the Holy Father spoke; they came when he delivered the homily – and they came when he said his farewells.
And as I remember it now – I can feel my eyes getting watery.
In journalism you are taught to be unbiased and not let your voice get in the story – there are exceptions of course (like this one) – but that’s the idea.
So, as a journalist, I stopped wearing anything that would indicate I was Catholic – because some folks take offense to that or may feel uncomfortable. And it’s okay – I understand.
But on Wednesday, February 17, 2016 – a day I will never forget – I let my guard down, listened intently to the Pope and let God in – if only for a moment. It was all He needed – any uncertainties that I had became clear.
As a journalist I feel privileged and very lucky to have been part of this global experience. And it was in fact global – journalists who spoke Italian and French were there; reporters from Los Angeles, New York and all across the country gathered here to document this.
And I was there among them – reporting, participating and sending up some prayers of my own.
By Alexandra Hinojosa, El Paso Herald Post Contributor
JUAREZ — Surreal, amazing, powerful – these are words to describe the experience of Pope Francis’ visit to Juárez – but these are only words.
They do not truly define or describe the experience – it is one that can only be felt. And it is a feeling that can be described as a tug at the heart, a feeling of peace. But again, those are only words that describe a feeling.
For weeks leading up to Pope’s visit there was a frenzy of planning by the city and the Juárez Diocese that accompanied it. An altar was
built, more than 80,000 volunteers were sought to assist in the human chain set to greet him along the route, and thousands more were needed to assist in the preparations and the organization of the event that would host 250,000 people.
Across the border in El Paso, the Catholic Diocese in conjunction with the University of Texas at El Paso and the city did their part to prepare for his coming.
Streets were closed, El Paso Police Officers were scheduled to assist in security and traffic for Wednesday; complaints were lodged to local city leaders, and a nonprofit organization – American United for Separation of Church and State – monitored the city’s spending.
Costs for preparations on the U.S. side were projected to cost about $1 million, said Tammy Fonce-Olivas, a spokesperson for the city, in an earlier interview with the El Paso Herald Post.
“But that is the initial cost and may change,” Fonce-Olivas said.
At the ports of entry, thousands crossed on foot or drove into Juárez. Customs and Border Patrol officials did their part to also prepare by adding additional staff to the crossings.
But despite the worry, frustration and additional stress that came with Wednesday’s papal visit – there was a feeling of peace and calm; a feeling of joy and happiness; a feeling of excitement that overcame the large crowds at the El Punto, both inside and outside the fenced area as the pontiff approached.
Before entering El Punto, the pontiff exited toward the back, and entering the border where Customs and Border Patrol agents stood by.
Across the border in El Paso at the levee more than 500 people, including migrants, looked on, waved and cheered.
News crews covered the event from the roof of Hart Elementary School to document this historical event.
The Pope then walked onto the landmark at the border – a large cross, and several smaller ones around it – that symbolized the death and
suffering of migrants that had crossed from Juárez to the United States to seek a better life for themselves and their children.
Cheers could be heard from both sides of the border and the Pope bowed his head in prayer once he approached the cross – then a moment of silence fell – a moment of peace for both cities.
After a moment, the pontiff looked up to his right and blessed the migrants watching from across the levee before walking down the ramp and taking his place at the altar.
A Time for Mass and Reflection
During a traditional Catholic Mass a lecturer, or reader of the Bible scriptures, will proceed in carrying the Book of Gospels and place it on the altar.
Following the lecturer one altar server carries the cross or crucifix, and several other altar servers follow. Then, the priest walks in; and pauses at the foot of the altar, bows his head; and the proceeds behind the altar and humbles himself by bowing and kissing it.
But this was no ordinary Mass.
At the start the choir, which according to the Diocese of Juárez, comprised of 45 persons from the Escuela Dioscesana de canto Liturgo, 40 singers from the Coro Diocesano Canta Y Camina, and about 80 singers selected by the diocese of Juárez, sang the entrance song.
Following their cue, priests from various parishes and dioceses – from Juárez and across the border of Texas and New Mexico – began the procession with the bishops following and dawning purple regalia. The purple regalia symbolizes the time of Lent on the Catholic calendar – a time of reflection and sacrifice that spans 40-days. Ash Wednesday, Feb. 10, marked the beginning of the spiritual season.
The Pope then entered carrying the cross and walking up the altar, with several members of the clergy behind him.
Crowds pressed upon the gates from their sections in the hopes to greet him; others reached their arms out as high as they could, with their cell phones or cameras in hand, in the hopes of catching a quick photo of the pontiff as he passed by.
And as with tradition, Pope Francis walked up to the altar, bowed his head and kissed it. He then blessed the crucifix, the altar, and the image of the Virgen de Guadalupe (Virgin Mary) with incense.
As he approached the altar, a hush fell over the crowd.
“En el nombre del Padre, el Hijo, y el Espirtu Santo,” Francis said opening the mass with the traditional greeting. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
“Amen,” boomed crowd gathered in the El Punto and along the levee; and at the Sun Bowl more than 30,000 echoed the response.
The Mass continued traditionally – albeit with the Pope seated and the massive crowds on both borders watching and waiting to respond accordingly.
It was surreal, hundreds of thousands responding accordingly, in two different nations – but all as one – together.
As the Mass proceeded the first reading, traditionally from the Old Testament, was from the book of Jonah, Chapter 3 versus 1 through 10.
In the reading God comes to Jonah a second time and asks him to take a message to the city of Nineveh and announce that in 40 days God would destroy the city if they did not repent and change their ways.
According the Book of Jonah, the King of the city ordered that his people repent, and God did not destroy the city, “Every man shall turn from his evil way.”
The reading was later followed by the Gospel according to Luke, Chapter 11, versus 29 through 32.
In the Gospel, Jesus turns to a crowd that has gathered around him and says in part:
This generation is an evil generation;it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it,except the sign of Jonah.Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites,so will the Son of Man be to this generation.
It is fitting that Pope Francis came during the first week of Lent and even moreso that on Feb. 17, the reading and the Gospel coincided with Juárez’s dangerous past.
According to the Mesa de Seguridad y Justicia, in 2010, deaths caused by violence left more than 3,080 killed. Since then, the violence has decreased by an estimated 92 percent, with 2015 ending in 303 killed according to the data.
A Call to Change
During his homily, an interpretation of both readings given at the mass for the congregation to understand and hopefully apply, the Pope’s message was in a word – powerful.
The pontiff spoke out against the violence that caused so many to cross into the United States – sometimes illegally – placing their lives in peril. He asked for people to look into their hearts and act in Mercy.
“The glory of the Father is the glory of his children,” Francis said in Spanish. “There is no greater happiness for a father, who sees the dreams of his children come true. There is no greater satisfaction than seeing his children succeed, grow up and develop.”
The Pope then referenced the city of Nineveh, which was a large city that was destroying itself.
“It was fruitful of oppression, degradation, violence and injustice, ” he said. “The grand capital had it’s days numbered. It was no longer sustainable – because of the violence it generated.”
God then changed Jonah’s heart -the pontiff continued – there he appeared to Jonah, inviting the citizens (of Nineveh) and sending them a messenger to change their ways of destruction that was causing oppression and suffering.
“Go and announce to them that if they are accustomed to this way of life degradation then they have lost the sensation to feel pain….That’s why God sent Jonah – he sent him to wake up a city.”
The pope then called for people to open their eyes and their hearts and be merciful and to act in mercy – as God did to the citizen of Nineveh.
“Mercy gets close in every occasion to transform from within,” he said. “That is precisely the divine mystery of Mercy. Mercy invites forgiveness, it invites the conversation, it invites you to see the harm that all the Ninevites are causing. Mercy always enters during evil times to transform it.”
The pope went on and invoked a message: There is always time to change; there is always a chance to change a city full of destruction.
“This is the Word of God I want to share with you,” he said. “This is the Word that invites us to convert. In this year of Mercy and at this place, I want to implore you to listen to the divine mystery of Mercy. (…) Here in Ciudad Juárez and other bordering zones there are thousands of immigrants from Central America and other countries, and not forgetting Mexico that want to cross into the other side.”
The passage is filled with terrible injustices, the pope added including extortions, exploitation and human trafficking.
“We can’t neglect this humanitarian crises that has caused millions of people to cross over border on foot – crossing over hundreds of meters through the mountains, deserts, and dangerous paths,” the Pope said references the drug wars and the injustices in Mexico. “This humanitarian tragedy that is represented through the forced immigration today is a global phenomenon.”
The injustices and forced immigrations, the Pope continued, are done to seek refuge from the drug cartels and organized crime. Families have been divided, young children are called to act out in the violence and women’s lives are destroyed as a result of the violence and injustice he said.
The Pope then asked for all to be open in their hearts to conversion – like the Ninevites.
“No more death or destruction,” he said. “There is always a chance to change. There is always a way out. There is always an opportunity. There is always time to implore and act upon the Mercy of God.”
At the end of the mass Pope Francis called for justice and prayed that Juárez would one day be a place where it’s citizens could accomplish their dreams and have a future.
“The night is long and at times can be very dark. But I’ve seen that in this city there are many instances of lights and images of hope,” He said. “I see that God is here in this city, guiding you and sustaining your hope. There are many women and men, through their effort, that make sure that this city doesn’t stay dark. Many parents would raise their children to me as I passed them – they are the future of Mexico. We need to take care of them. Those children are the prophet of tomorrow, they are a sign of a new tomorrow – and I promise you that in a moment – I felt like crying – in a city that has suffered so much I saw hope.”
In parting he asked that Mexico not forget about the Virgen de Guadalupe, (Virgin Mary) “Without her Mexico doesn’t make sense.”
By Alexandra Hinojosa, El Paso Herald Post Contributor
JUAREZ – It was a day of standing and waiting for hours in the sun for the tens of thousands who wanted chance to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis or be in his presence during the Mass.
Inside the Juarez Fairgrounds, thousands of Mass attendees crammed into their designated zones. Several brought blankets, pillows, chairs and lunches.
Malondo Carbajal who arrived at his zone at 3 a.m. came prepared with his group. The Mass was scheduled to begin just after 4 p.m.
“I brought a backpack first aid kit items, for myself and the group,” Carbajal said. “And a ham sandwich to help me get through the day.” The Mass was accessible to 220,000 ticket holders, but several thousand more that wanted to attend found other means to catch a glimpse of the Pontiff.
Although the main fairways were closed, people could still access the Mass site by taking alternate routes. Taxi drivers, would drop off tourists or late attendees as close as they could.
Street vendors along Panama Street – a good six blocks from the Benito Juarez Stadium – took the opportunity to attract customers while volunteers, locals and tourists made the trek to the mass site on foot. Vendors displayed souvenirs; T-shirts, hats, flags, pins that had the image of Pope Francis and paintings of the Holy Father
The scent of tacos de barbecoa, welcomed passersby and families sold aguas frescas, fruit cups that had melons, whole pineapples, papayas and watermelons. On the corner of Panama Street and David Herrera, a small hamburger shop was getting plenty of customers.
Closer to the stadium, there were few empty spaces along the sidewalk as vendors did their best to sell papal related souvenirs.
Matilde Guzman Garcia and her sister Margarita Garcia Gomez traveled from Mexico City with
their products – buttons with various images of Pope Francis, postcards, wall decorations, ribbons with Viva El Papá written on it with glitter, and silver rosaries paired with the image of the pontiff. The items ranged from 10 pesos to 50 pesos.
“We came from Mexico City and have been selling these at parishes that will have us and along his routes when we could,” Garcia said in Spanish. “But we’ve found that it’s cost us more in traveling from Mexico City here – and back.”
Garcia stressed – that while they were selling items that were related to the Pope’s coming to Mexico, another reason they traveled from Mexico City to Juarez was to spend time with family.
Garcia and Gomez said they estimated it cost them about 4,000 pesos in travel expenses to sell their items along the papal route.
“But you know what, the people of Juarez have been really great,” Gomez said. “They treat us right and are very helpful if we need it – not just in buying our items, but also in helping us out with travel and transportation. It’s (Juarez) has a gotten a bad reputation, but it’s not like everyone says it is.”
With the tourists in Juarez and the locals, the sisters expect to make a small profit.
Just a block away from Garcia and Gomez, thousands leaned against the barriers, along the papal route at the Heroico Colegio Militar Avenue, just outside the Juarez Fairgrounds, in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the pontiff on his way to the mass.
Claudia Martinez, waved a flag with the pontiff’s image on it, and held onto a spot on the fence that she and her husband, Luis De La Cruz, picked out at 11 a.m. on Wednesday.
“We’ve been waiting and waiting,” Martinez said in Spanish. “We decided not to watch it from home because we figured since we are here and live here we should take up the opportunity because this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I don’t know if this will happen again – maybe with another Pope – but not anytime soon.”
When asked whether she thought the Pope might get off of his route and greet the crowd with a blessing, she simply said, “Well, isn’t his visit alone a blessing in itself.”
Chris Babcock: 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.
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.
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.
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
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.”
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.
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 Juarez – 10:25 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.
10:20 – 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
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
9:56 – Pontiff has touched down in Juarez; plane now moving to the reception area.
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.
Under what could only be described as a heaven-sent, picture-perfect day, thousands of the faithful turned out at Juarez’s international airport to welcome Pope Francis to the Pass of the North.
About 5,000 children, special needs adults and children, as well as local bishops were in attendance to receive Pope Francis at the Benito Juarez International Airport.
As the Pope’s descent drew nearer, the anticipation was palpable. A symphony played a melodramatically, and the beat of the drums and the pace of the violins was enough to get quicken the pulse.
Dalia Villegas, a mother with a young women’s group said she was excited and pleased to be part of a once in lifetime event.
“We are part of a movement to get young women involved to speak and spread the word of God,”Villegas said. “We have 17 girls from our group here and they are so excited to be here.” The selection of the 17 girls was done through seeing which students put the most effort forward, and who were considered leaders in the organization.
“We were here since 5 a.m.,” Villegas said
As the attendees waited they waived white handkerchiefs decorated with his image. Then, as AeroMexico made it’s descent the cheers grew louder – and then a temporary hush fell over the crowd – but not for long. The music began once more as the AeroMexico Boeing 787 drew closer to the ground.
As the crowd cheered, the group of selected bishops from Juarez, El Paso and Las Cruces gathered at the tar mat, and waited patiently. A group of 8 children followed them, ready to present him with flowers.
Then – the moment of truth – AeroMexico touched down, the crowd roared, “Se ve, se sente, Francisco esta presente.” (It can be seen, it can be felt, Pope Francis is present.)
After what seemed like hours, or about 15 minutes, the Pope’s plane stopped and the hatch door opened – and Pope Francis smiled and waved at the crowd. Thousands cheered and began to chant. The song, “Francisco Es,”filled the air.
Once off the plane, the pontiff greeted the bishops – and received a key to the city from the Mayor of Juarez, Javier Gonzalez Mocken. The Governor, Cesar Horacio Duarte Jaquez, also greeted him.
One by one, the pontiff shook hands and hugged the bishops and the children who presented him with the flowers. As he made his way to his vehicle, the crowd cheered and chanted. He entered, and waved and smiled, but did not get to far before getting off of the mobile when a disabled woman and her father caught his eye.
And the Pontiff, asked his driver to stop, so he could bless them both before he made his way to Cereso Prison.
Jesus Ablerto Gonzalez, said it caught him by suprise when the Pope came forward to bless his daughter. His wife, Rica Ruiz Gonzalez said she felt blessed.
“He didn’t speak or say anything, he just blessed her,” Ruiz Gonzalez said, her face stained with tears of joy.
Their daughter, also named Rica, is 21 and had a disability that made it difficult for her to walk or speak. “But with a lot of work we’ve been able to get her to walk today,”Gonzalez said of his daughter, his eyes watery from the blessing that took place just minutes before.
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Preparations continue by the City of El Paso along with its local, state and federal partners for the upcoming landmark border visit by Pope Francis.
Traffic measures including travel restrictions and road closures will be carried out to control traffic flow on El Paso roadways and neighborhoods to be most affected by the papal border visit.
Update on use of emergency routes (Campbell and Cotton)
Campbell will be closed starting at 3 a.m. to all traffic between Franklin and Loop 375. This road will be designated for Emergency vehicle use. The closure will remain in effect for up to 24 hours.
o Vehicular traffic will be allowed to cross Campbell (east or west) between Paisano and Franklin.
o Vehicles in parking lots and garages that have exits facing Campbell will be allowed on Campbell. Vehicles exiting these lots and garages must yield to traffic on Campbell and must turn immediately off of Campbell at the first intersecting roadway traveling east or west. This action is necessary to avoid possible collisions with emergency units that could be traveling southbound on the roadway.
Cotton will be closed starting at 3 a.m. from 7th Ave to E. Missouri. This road will also be designated for Emergency vehicle use. This closure will remain in effect for up to 24 hours.
o Vehicular traffic will be allowed to cross Cotton (east or west) between E. San Antonio and Texas.
o Vehicles in parking lots that have exits facing Cotton will be allowed on Cotton. Vehicles exiting these lots and garages must yield to traffic on Cotton and must turn immediately off of Cotton at the first intersecting roadway traveling east or west.
Contingency Plan for I-10 (eastbound and westbound lanes)
If traffic leading to downtown or to the Bridge of Americas, Paso Del Norte or Stanton ports of entry and their surrounding neighborhoods becomes gridlocked due to traffic not moving swiftly across the border due to traffic control in Juárez, El Paso Police will work with its partners to alleviate the traffic congestion in El Paso by limiting access to downtown and South-Central streets from I-10.
o Off-ramps to I-10 may be closed in both directions from Geronimo to Executive Center.
Contingency Plan for Paisano (eastbound lanes)
If traffic leading to downtown or to the Paso Del Norte or Stanton ports of entry and their surrounding neighborhoods becomes gridlocked due to traffic not moving swiftly across the border due to traffic control in Juárez, El Paso Police and its partners may close eastbound lanes on Paisano from Executive Center to Santa Fe.
Loop 375 from U.S. Highway-54 to Santa Fe will be closed in both directions to all traffic (vehicular, pedestrian, etc.) for approximately a 24-hour period starting at 3 a.m. on February, 17, 2016. View map here.
Loop 375 from U.S. Highway-54 to Yarbrough will be closed to all traffic (vehicular, pedestrian, etc.) from 10 a.m. until the Pope departs the Mass location and his motorcade travels away from roadways adjacent to the El Paso-Juárez border.
City streets in South-Central El Paso bounded by Loop 375 to the south, Campbell to the west, Paisano to the north and Coles/First to the east will have limited access to vehicular traffic starting at 3 a.m. on February 17, 2016. Vehicular access in the restricted area will be limited to residents and businesses. View map here.
Residents and businesses will be allowed to enter and exit the restricted area through one location: the intersection of Delta and Coles. View map here.
Residents of Chihuahuita will be allowed to access to their properties via Santa Fe.
Once Pope Francis arrives at the Mass location in Juárez no one will be allowed to leave or re-enter the restricted area until the Pope departs the mass. This closure is scheduled for 2 p.m.
Road closures and other pope-visit-related information is available at www.pope915.com and through social media sites using #pope915.