Throughout his reign, Pope Francis has sought to emphasize the Catholic church’s outreach to the poor and suffering of the world, and his recent visit to Mexico gave him ample opportunity to do just that.
The pontiff visited a slum outside Mexico City where women were routinely slaughtered, and spoke at length in the ruined city of Juárez about perseverance in the face of a seemingly hopeless infestation of drugs and gang violence. But Vatican insiders say that not even the Pope’s closest advisers knew about his plan for the final day of his visit: a trip through an abandoned drug tunnel into the United States.
“His Holiness has given us the slip before,” said a member of his security detail, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Several times, he has gone incognito into the streets of Rome to interact with ordinary citizens. But this was bold, even for him. Perhaps he was inspired by seeing once again the sorts of struggles he knew firsthand in Argentina."
"Jesus said, 'If anyone forces you to go one mile with him, go two miles with him,'” said the Pontiff upon emerging onto U.S. soil. "The clear message here is that we must share one another’s journey, even if it takes us to unfamiliar, even frightening places. For instance, a narrow tunnel into another country. So many Latin American Catholics have been driven by their poverty and suffering to cross into the United States, often through extra-legal channels. As the shepherd to my flock, it seemed only right that I travel that same path.”
Catholics on both sides of the immigration issue were quick to comment. “At least I’m sure he hasn’t come for my job,” said San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy, who is famously friendly to immigration reform. “I mean, he appointed me.”
But Vice President (and Catholic) Joe Biden, speaking in defense of an administration that has deported immigrants at a faster rate than any in history, quipped, “The Pope put one over on us this time. But the United States has some experience with slipping into foreign countries, and maybe one day we’ll return the favor.”
Asked if he was referring to the strike force that secretly entered Pakistan to eliminate Osama Bin Laden, the Vice President merely smiled.