Pope wants Mexico free of 'merchants of death'

Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in Ecatepec, Mexico, on Feb 14, 2016.
Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in Ecatepec, Mexico, on Feb 14, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

ECATEPEC, Mexico (AFP) - Pope Francis urged Mexicans on Sunday (Feb 14) to turn their country into a land of opportunity where there is no need to emigrate or mourn victims "of the merchants of death."

The Argentine pontiff made his plea during an open-air mass with 300,000 Catholic faithful in Ecatepec, a Mexico City suburb plagued by murders and the disappearance of women.

Pope Francis urged them to make "this blessed land of Mexico a land of opportunity, where there will be no need to emigrate in order to dream, no need to be exploited in order to work, no need to make the despair and poverty of many the opportunism of a few, a land that will not have to mourn men and women, young people and children who are destroyed at the hands of the dealers of death."

Drug violence and the plight of migrants are two major themes of the pope's visit, which started Thursday and ends Wednesday at the northern border city of Ciudad Juarez.