"No more death. No more exploitation!" exclaimed Pope Francis in a politically symbolic Mass Wednesday evening in Ciudad Juárez as he concluded his five-day visit to Mexico.
Ciudad Juárez is at the border with the United States, and the pope prayed silently for those who have died while trying to cross into America, as thousands of faithful watched on both sides of the fortified border.
Pope Francis made a symbolic walk up a ramp lined with flowers to a cross in Ciudad Juárez, erected there in memory of migrants who have died trying to cross the border into the United States. He expressed sorrow for the tragedies migrants undergo in seeking a better life.
He said the plight of the migrants, both in the U.S. and in Europe, which is facing an influx of Syrian migrants, often includes "terrible injustice, enslavement, kidnappings, extortion," and human trafficking. He said the world cannot deny a "humanitarian crisis" is taking place as millions of people are forced to migrate to seek peace and economic opportunities.
The pope also waved and made the sign of the cross to a crowd cheering across the river in El Paso, Texas. The Mass was also broadcast live to thousands of people gathered at the large football stadium at the University of Texas in El Paso.
In Spanish, Francis said that thanks to the help of technology, they could pray, sing and celebrate together the merciful love that the Lord gives and that no frontier can prevent them from sharing.
Earlier, the pope met with some 700 prisoners in the troubled city, telling them that while they could not undo the past, they could work toward writing a new story and moving forward.
He told them to use their experiences to help "put end to this cycle of violence and exclusion."
Pope Francis receives a cross made by an inmate at the CeReSo No. 3 prison in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Feb. 17, 2016.
Prison visits are a regular custom of the pope when he travels outside Vatican City.
On Tuesday, the pope held a Mass for priests, nuns and seminarians in Michoacan state, the heart of the nation's drug-trafficking industry. He urged his listeners to continue to fight against drug-fueled violence and injustice.
"What temptation can come to us from places often dominated by violence, corruption, drug trafficking, disregard for human dignity, and indifference in the face of suffering and vulnerability?" the pope asked.
"Faced with this reality, the devil can overcome us with one of his favorite weapons: resignation," he said.
'Dare to dream'
Also Tuesday in Michoacan, the pope held a Mass for young people, urging them to "dare to dream" of a life free of crime and violence and calling them "the wealth of this land."
Pope Francis blesses faithful during his visit to the Morelia Cathedral in Mexico's Michoacan state, Feb. 16, 2016.
Michoacan state has endured some of the most gruesome episodes of Mexico's drug war, which has left 100,000 people dead or missing in the past decade.
Pope Francis began his five-day visit to Mexico on Saturday, meeting with officials in a call for them to provide "true justice" and security in the country after years of endemic drug violence, official corruption and poverty.
On Sunday, he spoke before members of Mexico's indigenous population and asked for forgiveness for the exclusion they have suffered by society.
Some material for this report came from AP and AFP.