In poor, violent enclave of 'Saint Death', Pope slams Mexico's rich

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Pope Francis visits Mexico
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In poor, violent enclave of 'Saint Death', Pope slams Mexico's rich
Pope Francis waves to the crowd from his popemobile in Mexico City's main square, the Zocalo, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. Pope Francis kicked off his first trip to Mexico on Saturday with speeches to the country's political and ecclesial elites. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
Bishops takes pictures of the crowd prior to the start of a mass celebrated by Pope Francis in Ecatepec, Mexico, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered as Pope Francis celebrated Mass, expected to be the biggest event of his five-day trip to Mexico. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Bishops attend the open-air mass by Pope Francis in Ecatepec --a rough, crime-plagued Mexico City suburb-- on February 14, 2016. Pope Francis has chosen to visit some of Mexico's most troubled regions during his five-day trip to the world's second most populous Catholic country. AFP PHOTO/GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP / GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
ECATEPEC, MEXICO - FEBRUARY 14: People sings during a mass at Ecatepec on February 14, 2016 in Ecatepec, Mexico. Pope Francis is on a five-day visit in Mexico from February 12 to 17 where he is expected to visit five states. (Photo by Hector Vivas/LatinContent/Getty Images)
A young girl waits for the passage of Pope Francis on his way to the Nuncianture, in Mexico City on February 13, 2016. Francis became the first pope to enter Mexico's National Palace to meet President Enrique Pena Nieto, as he starts a cross-country tour that will highlight the country's violence and migration troubles. AFP PHOTO. AFP PHOTO/MARIO VAZQUEZ / AFP / MARIO VAZQUEZ (Photo credit should read MARIO VAZQUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Catholic faithful wait for the arrival of Pope Francis in Ecatepec --a rough, crime-plagued Mexico City suburb-- where he is to celebrate an open-air mass, on February 14, 2016. Pope Francis has chosen to visit some of Mexico's most troubled regions during his five-day trip to the world's second most populous Catholic country. AFP PHOTO/ JULIO CESAR AGUILAR / AFP / Julio Cesar Aguilar (Photo credit should read JULIO CESAR AGUILAR/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis officiates an open-air mass in Ecatepec, near Mexico City, on February 14, 2016. Pope Francis urged Mexicans on Sunday to turn their country into a land of opportunity where there is no need to emigrate or mourn victims 'of the merchants of death.' AFP PHOTO/ALFREDO ESTRELLA / AFP / ALFREDO ESTRELLA (Photo credit should read ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images)
ECATEPEC, MEXICO - FEBRUARY 14: Pope Francis wlaks with a censer during a mass for the people at Ecatepec on February 14, 2016 in Ecatepec, Mexico. Pope Francis is on a five days visit in Mexico from February 12 to 17 where he is expected to visit five states. (Photo by Hector Vivas/LatinContent/Getty Images)
Pope Francis waves from the popemobile on his way to the cathedral, in Mexico City on February 13, 2016. Francis became the first pope to enter Mexico's National Palace to meet President Enrique Pena Nieto, as he starts a cross-country tour that will highlight the country's violence and migration troubles. AFP PHOTO/GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP / GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
Catholic faithfuls take communion during an open-air mass by Pope Francis in Ecatepec --a rough, crime-plagued Mexico City suburb-- on February 14, 2016. Pope Francis has chosen to visit some of Mexico's most troubled regions during his five-day trip to the world's second most populous Catholic country. AFP PHOTO / ALFREDO ESTRELLA / AFP / ALFREDO ESTRELLA (Photo credit should read ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis waves at the crowd from the Popemobile after celebrating an open-air mass in Ecatepec, near Mexico City on February 14, 2016. Pope Francis urged Mexicans on Sunday to turn their country into a land of opportunity where there is no need to emigrate or mourn victims 'of the merchants of death.'. AFP PHOTO/ JULIO CESAR AGUILAR / AFP / Julio Cesar Aguilar Fuentes (Photo credit should read JULIO CESAR AGUILAR FUENTES/AFP/Getty Images)
Owners of the parking lot being used as a helipad, right, along with friends and family, take pictures as the helicopter carrying Pope Francis lands, in Ecatepec, Mexico, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016. Pope Francis will give a Mass at an outdoor field in the capital's suburb of Ecatepec to an estimated crowd of 400,000 pilgrims. It is to be his biggest event during his trip to Mexico. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Pilgrims wave flags as they wait for the arrival of Pope Francis in Ecatepec, Mexico, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016. Pope Francis will give a Mass at an outdoor field in the capital's suburb of Ecatepec to an estimated crowd of 400,000 pilgrims. It is to be his biggest event during his trip to Mexico. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)
Pope Francis waves from the popemobile upon arrival in Ecatepec --a rough, crime-plagued Mexico City suburb-- where he is to celebrate an open-air mass, on February 14, 2016. Pope Francis has chosen to visit some of Mexico's most troubled regions during his five-day trip to the world's second most populous Catholic country. AFP PHOTO / YURI CORTEZ / AFP / YURI CORTEZ (Photo credit should read YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Workers prepare to fix a fallen banner showing Pope Francis holding a dove, on the grounds where Pope Francis was to land by helicopter, in Ecatepec, Mexico state, Mexico, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016. Pope Francis will give a Mass at an outdoor field in the capital's suburb of Ecatepec to an estimated crowd of 400,000 pilgrims.(AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Mariachis play in front of street art depicting Pope Francis, as they wait for the popemobile to pass following the end of Mass, in Ecatepec, Mexico, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016. Pope Francis urged Mexicans to shun the devil and resist the temptations of wealth and corruption as he celebrated an open-air Mass for hundreds of thousands of people. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Catholic faithful cheer as Pope Francis drives by in his popemobile in Ecatepec, Mexico, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016. Pope Francis will give a Mass at an outdoor field in the capital's suburb of Ecatepec to an estimated crowd of 400,000 pilgrims. It is to be his biggest event during his trip to Mexico. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)
ECATEPEC, MEXICO - FEBRUARY 14: Faithful prays after receiving the communion wafer during a mass for the people at Ecatepec on February 14, 2016 in Ecatepec, Mexico. Pope Francis is on a five days visit in Mexico from February 12 to 17 where he is expected to visit five states. (Photo by Hector Vivas/LatinContent/Getty Images)
A security member stands guard next to a graffiti depicting Pope Francis in Ecatepec --a rough, crime-plagued Mexico City suburb-- where he will celebrate an open-air mass, on February 14, 2016. Pope Francis has chosen to visit some of Mexico's most troubled regions during his five-day trip to the world's second most populous Catholic country. AFP PHOTO / YURI CORTEZ / AFP / YURI CORTEZ (Photo credit should read YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
A group of nuns walk to get a spot on the route of Pope Francis in Reforma Avenue in Mexico City, Mexico, Sunday Feb. 14, 2016, 2016. Pope Francis will give a Mass at an outdoor field in the capital's suburb of Ecatepec to a crowd of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims. (AP Photo/Felix Marquez)
Pope Francis waves to people lining his route to the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico City, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. The pontiff's five-day visit includes a prayer before the Virgin of Guadalupe shrine, the largest and most important Marian shrine in the world and one that is particularly important to the first Latin American pope. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Faithfuyl welcome Pope Francis as he arrives to celebrate an open-air Holy Mass in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico on February 13, 2016. Pope Francis is in Mexico for a trip encompassing two of the defining themes of his papacy: bridge-building diplomacy and his concern for migrants seeking a better life. AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP / GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis greets a child as he walks in procession at the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe before celebrating Mass in Mexico City, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. The Basilica is considered the largest and most important Marian shrine in the world. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
People wave a blanket with an image of Pope Francis at Mexico City's main square, the Zocalo, during the pontiff's visit to the National Palace, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. The pontiff's five-day visit will include a very personal prayer at the Virgin of Guadalupe shrine. (AP Photo/Christian Palma)
Pope Francis waves to the crowd, aboard the popemobile in Mexico City's main sqaure, the Zocalo, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. Pope Francis kicks off his first trip to Mexico on Saturday with speeches to the country's political and ecclesial elites. The pontiff's five-day visit will include a very personal prayer at the Virgin of Guadalupe shrine. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
Pope Francis arrives to celebrate a Holy Mass in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico on February 13, 2016. Pope Francis is in Mexico for a trip encompassing two of the defining themes of his papacy: bridge-building diplomacy and his concern for migrants seeking a better life. AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP / GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis (C) arrives to celebrate a Holy Mass in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico on February 13, 2016. Pope Francis is in Mexico for a trip encompassing two of the defining themes of his papacy: bridge-building diplomacy and his concern for migrants seeking a better life. AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP / GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis (C) at an open-air mass at the Guadalupe Basilica in Mexico City on February 13, 2016. The pope urged Mexican bishops Saturday to take on drug trafficking with 'prophetic courage,' warning that it represents a moral challenge to society and the church. AFP PHOTO / Alfredo ESTRELLA / AFP / ALFREDO ESTRELLA (Photo credit should read ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis officiates an open-air mass at the Guadalupe Basilica in Mexico City on February 13, 2016. The pope urged Mexican bishops Saturday to take on drug trafficking with 'prophetic courage,' warning that it represents a moral challenge to society and the church. AFP PHOTO / Alfredo ESTRELLA / AFP / ALFREDO ESTRELLA (Photo credit should read ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images)
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - FEBRUARY 13: Pope Francis speaks during a mass for the people at Basilica de Guadalupe on February 13, 2016 in Mexico City, Mexico. Pope Francis is on a five-day visit in Mexico from February 12 to 17 where he is expected to visit five states. (Photo by Hector Vivas/LatinContent/Getty Images)
Pope Francis (R) officiates an open-air mass at the Guadalupe Basilica in Mexico City on February 13, 2016. The pope urged Mexican bishops Saturday to take on drug trafficking with 'prophetic courage,' warning that it represents a moral challenge to society and the church. AFP PHOTO / Alfredo ESTRELLA / AFP / ALFREDO ESTRELLA (Photo credit should read ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe, where her image is displayed behind, in Mexico City, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. The pontiff's five-day visit included a prayer before the Virgin of Guadalupe shrine, the largest and most important Marian shrine in the world and one that is particularly important to the first Latin American pope. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)
Pope Francis, center, greets invited guests following a welcoming ceremony at the National Palace in Mexico City, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. The Pope kicks off his first trip to Mexico on Saturday with speeches to the country's political and ecclesial elites. The pontiff's five-day visit will include a very personal prayer before the Virgin of Guadalupe shrine, the largest and most important Marian shrine in the world and one that is particularly important to the first Latin American pope. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Mexican Mariachis Play and wave to Pope Francis on his route to the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. The pontiff's five-day visit includes a prayer before the Virgin of Guadalupe shrine, the largest and most important Marian shrine in the world and one that is particularly important to the first Latin American pope. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
Pope Francis dons a Mexican charro style sombrero, in Mexico City's main sqaure, the Zocalo, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. Pope Francis kicks off his first trip to Mexico on Saturday with speeches to the country's political and ecclesial elites. The pontiff's five-day visit will include a very personal prayer at the Virgin of Guadalupe shrine. (AP Photo/Christian Palma)
Pope Francis laughs along with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto during a welcoming ceremony at the National Palace in Mexico City, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. Pope Francis kicks off his first trip to Mexico on Saturday with speeches to the country's political and ecclesial elites. The pontiff's five-day visit will include a very personal prayer before the Virgin of Guadalupe shrine, the largest and most important Marian shrine in the world and one that is particularly important to the first Latin American pope.(AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Pope Francis is welcomed by Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto and first lady Angelica Rivera, upon his arrival at the Presidential palace in Mexico City, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. Francis kicked off his first trip to Mexico on Saturday with a long popemobile ride past cheering crowds on a day that will see him meet with the countryâs political and church elite, and end with a silent prayer before the Virgin of Guadalupe. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Pope Francis, seen on the other side of the framed glass that usually holds the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, holds a flower bouquet as he prays to her inside a private room at the Basilica built in her honor, during Mass in Mexico City, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. The image in the frame was removed and placed inside the private room. The pontiff's five-day visit included a prayer before the Virgin of Guadalupe shrine, the largest and most important Marian shrine in the world and one that is particularly important to the first Latin American pope. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Pope Francis gives a thumbs up from the popemobile along his route to the National Palace in Mexico City, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. The pontiff is in Mexico for a week-long visit. (AP Photo/Felix Marquez)
Pope Francis waves to the people from the popemobile, along his route to the National Palace in Mexico City, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. The pontiff is in Mexico for a week-long visit. (AP Photo/Felix Marquez)
TOPSHOT - Pope Francis wears a traditional Mexican sombrero hat received as a gift by a Mexican journalist on February 12, 2016, aboard the plane to Havana. Pope Francis headed to Cuba on Friday looking to heal a 1,000-year-old rift in Christianity before embarking on a tour of Mexico dominated by modern day problems of drug-related violence and migration. / AFP / POOL / ALESSANDRO DI MEO (Photo credit should read ALESSANDRO DI MEO/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis' skullcap flies off as he walks with Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto and first lady Angelica Rivera upon arrival to Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City, Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. The pontiff is in Mexico for a week-long visit. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
Pope Francis waves from the Popemobile upon his arrival in Mexico City on February 12, 2016. Catholic faithful flocked to the streets of Mexico City to greet Pope Francis on Friday after the pontiff held a historic meeting with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Cuba. AFP PHOTO/Yuri Cortez / AFP / YURI CORTEZ (Photo credit should read YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis waves to people from the popemobile along his route to the Apostolic Nunciature, the Vatican's diplomatic mission, in Mexico City, Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. The pontiff is in Mexico for a week-long visit. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
Pope Francis (C) waves next to Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto (R) and First Lady Angelica Rivera (L) upon his arrival at Benito Juarez international airport in Mexico City on February 12, 2016. Catholic faithful flocked to the streets of Mexico City to greet Pope Francis on Friday after the pontiff held a historic meeting with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Cuba. AFP PHOTO/RONALDO SCHEMIDT / AFP / RONALDO SCHEMIDT (Photo credit should read RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
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ECATEPEC, Mexico (Reuters) - Celebrating Mass for more than 300,000 people in one of Mexico´s poorest and most dangerous cities, Pope Francis on Sunday took a swipe at the country's rich and corrupt elite .

Decrying "a society of the few and for the few", he denounced deep inequality and the vanity and pride of those who consider themselves a cut above the rest.

"That wealth which tastes of pain, bitterness and suffering. This is the bread that a corrupt family or society gives its own children," the pope said at the Mass in the city of Ecatepec.

Francis urged his listeners to struggle to make Mexico "a land of opportunities where there will be no need to emigrate in order to dream" and where drug traffickers, whom he called "dealers of death", would not ensnare their children.

Mexico is home to one of the world´s richest men, billionaire Carlos Slim, and a wealthy political class stained by corruption even as much of the country is steeped in poverty and violence.

A gritty expanse of cinder block homes north of Mexico City, Ecatepec has seen a surge in crime in recent years as it became infested with warring drug cartels.

Fueled by a weak economy and youth unemployment, gang violence has driven the city's murder rate to one of Mexico's highest.

It is notorious for the unsolved murders of scores of women, the bodies of many found abandoned in garbage dumps or tossed in a canal only miles from where Francis spoke on Sunday.

Pope Francis Urges Mexico to Shun Devil and Resist Temptation

'NO DIALOGUE WITH THE DEVIL'

The pope warned Mexicans not to succumb to evil: "You cannot dialogue with the devil because he will always win," he told them.

Ecatepec is home to a giant statue of "Santa Muerte", or Saint Death, a cult figure followed by millions across the Americas.

The saint is often depicted as a skeletal "grim reaper" draped in white satin robes, beaded necklaces and carrying a scythe, and is believed to grant requests without judging people.

Although he did not address Santa Muerte in his Mass, the Roman Catholic Church has been dismayed by the cult's rise at a time it is battling competition from other religions.

"The Mexican Church already was very concerned by expanding Protestantism and now it must contend with a folk saint venerated mostly by Mexicans who still consider themselves Catholic," said Andrew Chesnut, the author of a book about the cult.

A sea of Catholic faithful greeted the pope as he flew into Ecatepec aboard a white helicopter, many wearing T-shirts emblazoned with his image, chanting, cheering and waving flags. Tens of thousands of others lined the streets.

"We are living through a period of great violence ... May (the pope) give us strength to continue to bear this, to keep struggling against it," said Maria Dolores Angeles Martinez, a 26-year-old housewife from Ecatepec.

Across the country, more than 100,000 people have been killed in drug violence over the last decade and some 26,000 are missing.

President Enrique Pena Nieto has failed to significantly curb the bloodshed, with murders rising last year after falling early in his term.

Before becoming president, Pena Nieto was governor of the State of Mexico that is the home to Ecatepec. In the second half of his 2005-2011 term as governor, the murders of women doubled.

Corruption and incompetence are rampant in under-funded police forces across Mexico. The vast majority of murders are never solved and family members complain authorities show little interest in the cases of the missing.

Francis condemned corruption in a hard-hitting speech at the presidential palace on Saturday.

Unlike his predecessor Pope Benedict, who visited Mexico's conservative heartland in 2012, Francis is stopping in some of the country's most troubled corners on his first trip as pontiff.

He will travel on Monday to Mexico's poorest state Chiapas, where he will say Mass with indigenous communities. Evangelical Christian groups have made huge advances in Chiapas, weakening the Catholic Church's influence.

The pope will also meet with young people in Morelia, the capital of Michoacan state where drug gangs and armed vigilante groups have waged a bloody conflict.

He then concludes his trip in the notorious northern border city of Ciudad Juarez, where he will address the tide of illegal immigration into the United States, meet relatives of victims of violence, and visit a prison.

(Additonal reporting by Tomas Sarmiento and Anna Yukhananov; Writing by Michael O'Boyle and Simon Gardner; Editing by Kieran Murray)

Pope Dons Sombrero In Mexico

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