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Vatican Releases Itinerary for Papal Visit to Mexico

FILE - Pope Francis is seen waving as he boards his plane at Fiumicino airport in Rome, Jan. 12, 2015.

The Vatican says Pope Francis' upcoming visit to Mexico will include an open-air Mass on the U.S. border, after visits to the impoverished southern state of Chiapas and the western state of Michoacan - widely seen as the birthplace of Mexico's drug wars.

The five-day visit opens February 12 in Mexico City, where the Argentine-born pontiff will be greeted by President Enrique Pena Nieto, before celebrating Mass at the city's Basilica of Guadaloupe.

The Vatican itinerary shows Francis then visiting Chiapas and Michoacan before ending his visit in the border city of Ciudad Juarez.

That city sits on Mexico's northern border across from El Paso, Texas. Francis is expected to visit a local prison to pray with inmates before the open-air Mass in a large field with a capacity of more than 200,000 next to Benito Juarez Stadium.

A Vatican statement said tickets to the event will be made available to parish churches on both sides of the border.

Since his March 2013 elevation to the papacy, Francis has sought to emphasize the plight of migrants and refugees across the globe.

Months later, he celebrated Mass on the Italian island of Lampedusa, a key entry point for migrants seeking entry to Europe from Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. He used the event to commemorate the deaths of thousands of migrants who have perished in recent years crossing the Mediterranean in overcrowded, unsafe small boats.