Pope Francis Condemns Mexico's Drug Cartels, Calling Them 'Dealers of Death' for Mass Murders, Kidnappings

Pope Francis
Pope Francis waves to the crowd after celebrating a Mass at San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico, February 15, 2016. |

During his visit to Mexico, Pope Francis condemned the country's drug trade and government corruption that has led to hundreds of thousands of murders and missing persons cases.

The pope made his comments on Saturday while speaking to the country's bishops at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City, urging religious leaders to take a more pro-active stance in fighting the drug trade and warning of "the temptation of aloofness and clericalism."

The country's Catholic Church has also received criticism in the past for turning a blind eye to government corruption and drug-related violence.

The pontiff also encouraged "drawing in and embracing the fringes of human existence in the ravaged areas of our cities."

"I urge you not to underestimate the moral and anti-social challenge, which the drug trade represents for young people and Mexican society as a whole," the religious leader continued. "The magnitude of this phenomenon ... and the gravity of the violence ... do not allow us as pastors of the Church to hide behind anodyne denunciations."

The pope made his comments at the start of his week-long Mexico trip, where he is expected to address issues such as government corruption, treatment of the country's indigenous population, and immigration relationships with the U.S.

Indigenous women attend a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis (not pictured) in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico, February 15, 2016. |

The pope has long spoken out against corruption and its affect on the poor and disadvantaged, and he reiterated this message during his Sunday mass held in Ecatepec, considered to be one of Mexico's most dangerous cities.

During his homily, the pope decried "a society of the few and for the few," and warning of "wealth which tastes of pain, bitterness and suffering."

"This is the bread that a corrupt family or society gives its own children," the pope added.

Francis also called on Mexicans to make their country "a land of opportunities where there will be no need to emigrate in order to dream" and where the drug cartel, described as "dealers of death," would not affect younger generations.

"You cannot dialogue with the devil because he will always win," the pope added.

Ecatepec is considered to be one of the epicenters of Mexico's powerful and illegal drug trade, with one of the highest murder rates in the entire country.

As Fox News Latino reports, the suburb of Mexico City is known for a weak economy, high unemployment rates, youth crimes and missing person cases.

Francis will conclude his five-day visit to Mexico on Wednesday with a prayer gathering held in the U.S. border city of Juarez. There, Francis will engage undocumented migrants from both Mexico and the U.S., focusing his invocation on unity and compromise for the immigration crisis.

The International Business Times reported in 2014, "Under Operation Gatekeeper, a border security plan implemented under President Bill Clinton in 1994, the federal government ramped up Border Patrol staffing, fences and security equipment along the San Diego border area to deter migrants from crossing. But immigration activists say the move effectively pushed migration eastward into the more perilous mountain regions of eastern California and the Arizona desert, contributing to the heightened death toll over the last two decades."

Dylan Corbett, executive director of Hope Border Institute, one of the groups participating in the prayer event, told Crux Now earlier this month, "When Pope Francis comes to our border to recall all those who perished, hundreds of migrants will be there to welcome him on the this side of the Rio Grande, in solidarity with a Latin American pope who defines himself as a migrant."

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