Pope Francis

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Rafael Carranza, reporter and produce for La Voz Arizona Newspaper and azcentral.com along with Maria Polletta, reporter for The Arizona Republic talk about Pope Francis’ historic trip to Mexico.

Jose Cardenas: Good evening. I'm Jose Cardenas. We'll talk about Pope Francis's historic trip to Mexico and what he had to say during his visit. And Arizona ranks among states with the lowest political engagement for African Americans. Plus, a valley behavioral health organization rebrands itself. All this coming up straight ahead on "Horizonte."

Video: "Horizonte" is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Arizona PBS, members of your PBS station. Thank you.

Jose Cardenas: Last week, migrants were the focus of Pope Francis's historic visit to Mexico. He ended his trip with a mass near the U.S.-Mexico border during his visit to Ciudad Juarez. The Pope's message to the people of Mexico was focused on compassion for immigrants and a challenge to eliminate the economic conditions, crime, and corruption forcing many across the border. Joining us to talk about Pope Francis's visit to Mexico are Maria Polletta, a reporter for The Arizona Republic. And Rafael Carranza, reporter and producer for La Voz Newspaper and azcentral.com. Thank you both for joining us on "Horizonte." It was a pretty big team that you guys sent to Mexico.

Maria Polletta: It was three reporters and two photographers. We kind of split up covering different elements of the visit.

Jose Cardenas: And we've got a lot of pictures. And so at least for the first part of this interview what I want to do is put the pictures up and tell the story that way and get your comments as we go through them beginning with one I think is of the Pope in the Pope Mobile or whatever that vehicle is that he goes in. Kind of describe the scene for us.

Maria Polletta: In terms of when he was going along the parade route?

Jose Cardenas: Yeah, so right here we have him going through -- that's on the way to the mass correct?

Rafael Carranza: This is actually -- he's already at the mass site so he had the very big event for Juarez for his visit last up on his five-day trip to Mexico, it was going to be a large mass along the U.S. border.

Jose Cardenas: When you say large, we're talking 200,000 people.

Rafael Carranza: 200,000 people, it was the largest event ever organized in Juarez so here he's showing up to the camp, to the fairgrounds where he held the mass and there were a lot of people that were very emotional to see him.

Jose Cardenas: Very moved and this picture is somebody attending the mass?

Rafael Carranza: This is inside. This is a very common sight throughout the whole trip, not just at the mass but throughout the entire day along the different sites that he visited. He had several different stops starting with a prison in the morning, and then he met with workers in the maquiladora industry, he had a private lunch with seminarians, and then he ended with the mass in Juarez along the border.

Jose Cardenas: Maria, your part of the focus was on the impact that his visit had on people. Give us a description of that.

Maria Polletta: Well, going back to kind of what the mood was along the route, people had done whatever they could to show up. There were people from the U.S. side of the border, we found a family from Phoenix, people from El Paso, people from Juarez, all income levels, ages, even religious beliefs varying, showing up to see him. I spoke to one mother who was there with her 7-year-old son who was paralyzed from the waist down. They lived in Juarez, they had no idea if they were even going to be able to make it to the parade route, let alone one of the events. They stayed overnight in a shopping center to see him for what ended up being a few seconds. So people were very hopeful, very excited about seeing him. It was a very festive sort of move.

Jose Cardenas: We've got those pictures, coming up. We've got some of the Pope celebrating the mass itself. And as some people have said Catholics do put on a good show and I take it this was?

Rafael Carranza: Yeah, this was definitely a very big show, and I think it was a very big showcase for the city in general, as well. So we're talking, you know, 200,000 people, there was a lot of effort put into organizing it and things didn't flow as smoothly at times but at the end people were happy regardless as Maria mentioned, just the fact that they were in the same area as the Pope and that they had the chance to hear him speak about topics that were very dear to them, as well.

Jose Cardenas: And one of the topics, a big focus was migrants and this picture that we have on the screen actually touch specifically on that issue.

Rafael Carranza: This is probably one of the more iconic images from this visit because before starting mass, he went to this cross that is located, it overlooks the Rio Grande, the border in El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. So this was something that he did kind of contribute to the migrants that had died making their way across the border and those who made it to their destination but are far away from their families and their homes. So this was a very symbolic moment for him to get the message out that this was about the migrants, this particular event and that it was something he was going to talk about very often throughout the rest of the mass which he did cover that, especially the risks that they face and in particular central American migrants, which is something that's very topical at the moment because we've had such a large number of migrants, including children, making their way through very dangerous conditions all across Mexico and then even when they get to the border there's even more risk there as they try to get to the United States. He was very cognizant about that and he did talk about the challenges that they face and the responsibility that people within the church have to help these people, and he brought that up, too. He especially highlighted the work that groups that fight for migrants' rights do and that also many of the churches, local parishioners and other clergy do in helping migrants.

Jose Cardenas: So one of the things that the Pope was expected to talk about but they didn't hear very much about is reflected in this picture that you took, one of the many posters around the city talking about the women's disappearance.

Maria Polletta: Absolutely. The Pope did touch on these women. There are hundreds of them who have gone missing or have been murdered in recent years, particularly from 2008 to 2012, but even in more recent years when you're in the downtown plaza walking around those posters and fliers are pasted all over, you know, bulletin boards, black and pink crosses in remembrance of them. The Pope did touch on it briefly when he was talking about there's still time to change, there's still time to stop the violence, he mentioned the impact on women in particular but didn't go much deeper than that.

Jose Cardenas: So we've got some more pictures we want to show. One of them touches back on the topic you were talking about, Rafael, which is migrant issues and this is a demonstration of solidarity?

Rafael Carranza: Yeah, as expected we were expecting to have a lot of different groups coming together not just the ones that are happy to see the Pope and wanting to hear what he has to say. This is an opportunity for a lot of migrant groups to get the message out and Maria was the one who had the chance to talk to a lot of them when they were at the border and trying to organize their efforts to see him.

Jose Cardenas: And Maria you had talked about the people who were there looking for some kind of blessing from the Pope, especially those who suffered a disability and the next two pictures are of people who are doing exactly that?

Maria Polletta: This first woman is a cancer patient and the next photo is of the mother and the son that I was talking about earlier. This was a sort of special area along the parade route that the diocese had helped coordinate, people who were hurt, who were sick, who were suffering, you know, from a range of conditions or who had physical disabilities gathered there, hoping that the Pope would stop, you know, even just for a few seconds and get out and bless them.

Jose Cardenas: And then the last picture we have captures the Phoenix aspect which you were both kind of focused on.

Maria Polletta: Right, we did follow on some pilgrims all the way from Phoenix to Juarez, this particular family was not one we followed all the way through, I happened upon them, you know, with the big sign when I was out covering the parade route. It was a husband and wife who was here from Lavigne I believe. They were there with the husband's cousin and her son who was blind. They were one of the families hoping that the Pope would get out and stop and talk to them and bless them.

Jose Cardenas: A couple of wrap-up questions. What significance, what impact did the Pope's visit have for people in Arizona and specifically for Phoenix?

Maria Polletta: Specifically in Phoenix, I don't know if I would say that its impact was specific to Phoenix residents. I think it was more for border towns as a whole. It kind of made the Pope and the church more accessible to people, especially poor people who might never get the chance to go to the Vatican, that is what I heard from a lot of people who had made the journey to Juarez from both sides of the border that the Pope was coming to them. One woman said if the Pope is coming to Juarez, it means God hasn't forgotten Juarez and the people of the border. It was kind of that recognition for them and just the chance to be able to see him again even if it was for only a few moments.

Jose Cardenas: And Rafael we're almost out of time, long-term impact? Do you think there is any?

Rafael Carranza: I think that remains to be seen but in particular to Juarez I think that they're very much hoping that this visit will have a very lasting impact. This was a chance for them to put their best face forward. They faced a lot of different things, a lot of challenges in the past with violence and a lot of other different hardships, but this was their chance to kind of show the world because wherever the Pope goes, the world is going to be watching. They're wanting to show the world that Juarez has changed, that it's not the face that was nicknamed the most deadly city in the world. So they were very eager to talk about things that have changed, about how there's a lot of jobs available now in the maquiladora industry and they're very happy and welcoming to a lot of the visitors, us included, and one of the last things that they would always say whenever we ended a conversation was I hope to see you back again soon. So they're hoping this is going to be something, that the positivity that they gave off and that they built throughout the past few days is going to continue and that the images of the Pope, you know, walking around in an open Pope Mobile throughout the city safely.

Jose Cardenas: It was an historic visit and we're so glad the two of you joined us to talk about it. Thank you so much.

Maria Polletta: Thank you.

Video: Here at "Horizonte" we want to hear from you. If you have comments, story ideas or questions, e-mail us at [email protected].

Maria Polletta: Arizona Republic Reporter, Rafael Carranza: La Voz Arizona Newspaper Reporter

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