CIUDAD JUÁREZ ― Pope Francis comes to Ciudad Juárez with a message of hope and mercy, say Rosa and Sergio Siller, who are leading a group of pilgrims from Sacred Heart Parish in Phoenix.
Sergio is a native of the last city on the Holy Father’s apostolic visit to Mexico, and he and his family are staying with his family while they’re here.
“Being from Juárez, and after all this turmoil that happened, we’re so blessed the Pope chose to come to Juárez to bring a message of mercy, forgiveness and hope,” said Sergio.
The Sillers typically visit Juárez three or four times a year, but when they learned of Pope Francis’ visit, they made arrangements right away.
“As soon as we learned it was like, ‘oh my goodness, we have to be there,’” said Rosa.
They are meeting with four other pilgrims from Phoenix while they’re in Juárez, and relatives from as far north as Indiana are coming to see the pope, also, she added.
While they are in Juárez, the pilgrims hope to visit several pilgrimage sites within the city. While visiting San Lorenzo (St. Lawrence) Parish, one of the parishes with designated Holy Doors of Mercy, the Sillers also shopped at the gift shop to buy gifts for friends and family to be blessed by the Holy Father.
In the San Lorenzo parking lot, Juárez locals Carlos Torres and Lourdes Gutierrez took the pope’s challenge to be “missionaries of mercy” to heart, passing out commemorative posters of Pope Francis’ visit.
When asked how much the posters were, they said they were free.
“We want to do this to help the people,” Torres said. “We’re doing this for no other reason than to thank God for all He has given us.”
Torres and Gutierrez are parishioners at nearby San Judás (St. Jude), and are part of an unnamed group of Catholics from various local parishes wanting to show hospitality and mercy to all of the pilgrims.
“We’ll be meeting with some families to buy drinks, water, sandwiches, etc. for the people who will be waiting for the pope to pass,” Torres said.
San Lorenzo was the pair’s third stop Monday night. Gutierrez said she was filled with “excitement, joy, peace and much more joy,” at the pope’s coming visit to her city.
“We want the pilgrims to leave with a beautiful image of the people of Juárez,” she said.
Juarez has been plagued by violence over the past decade, with the homicide rate peaking above 3,100 in 2010; 300 murders in 2015 was the lowest reported since 2006.
“There’s hope. God knows we’re in need here,” said Rosa. “They need to feel like [Pope Francis] is bringing a message the Lord loves His people.”