Pope Francis was greeted by thousands of supporters upon his arrival in Mexico. The pontiff delivered a tough-love message to President Nieto and his government, saying people have a right to security and justice.
Thousands of Catholics gathered in the historic Zocalo square on Saturday to welcome the Argentine pontiff as he waved from his popemobile. Many Mexicans hoped that Pope Francis' visit would put pressure on President Enrique Pena Nieto to remedy the issues plaguing Mexico's society, including drug-inspired violence and corruption.
Following a private meeting with Pena on Saturday, Francis gave a hard-hitting speech at the National Palace, where he addressed the president and other government authorities.
The pontiff said Mexico's political leaders have a duty to provide their people with security, "true justice" and basic services, and warned them against being seduced by privilege.
"Adequate housing, dignified employment, food, true justice, effective security, a healthy and peaceful environment" are all part of a politicians' responsibility, Francis said.
In a speech alongside the pope, Nieto says he shares Pope Francis' concerns about the "great challenges...doubts and uncertainties" that the nation faces.
Speaking at Mexico City's cathedral later on Saturday, Francis urged Mexican bishops to take on drug trafficking with "prophetic courage," warning that it represents a moral challenge to Mexican society as a whole, and not just the Church.
"The magnitude of this phenomenon, the complexity of its causes, its immensity and its scope which devours like a metastasis, and the gravity of the violence which divides with its distorted expressions, do not allow us as Pastors of the Church to hide behind anodyne denunciations," Francis said.
As a result of drug-related violence, more than 100,000 people have either died or gone missing in Mexico in the past decade. The pope's visit on Saturday came just days after 49 people were killed in a fight between rival gangs in a prison.
The Pope's arrival in Mexico comes a day after his historic meeting with the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. It is the first time the leaders of the two churches have met in the nearly 1,000 years since a theological schism led to a split in the church.
ksb/jlw (Reuters, epd)