By Associated Press, The Washington Post
LEON, Mexico â€” Pope Benedict XVI landed in Mexico on Friday to throngs of faithful who gathered at the tarmac and lined more than 20 miles of his route into the city shouting the ultimate welcome: â€œBenedict, brother, you are now Mexican.â€
Many thought such a warm reception, complete with folkloric dance and mariachis, would not greet a pope some consider distant and academic. But the worldâ€™s largest Roman Catholic, Spanish-speaking country showed Benedict the same affection as they did to his predecessor, John Paul II, who was dubbed â€œMexicoâ€™s popeâ€ after making five trips to the country.
â€œThis is a proud country of hospitality, and nobody feels like a stranger in your land,â€ the pope said upon landing to wild cheers. â€œI knew that, now I see it and now I feel it in my heart.â€
After his Alitalia flight landed, the streets of Leon where the pope will stay took on a carnival atmosphere, with entire blocks exploding in yellow confetti as he passed in his bulletproof popemobile along the 20-mile (32-kilomter) route from the airport.
â€œHe came to change all Mexicans,â€ said Maria del Rosario Tamayo Villanueva, who waited to see the pope despite being paralyzed in both legs since childhood. â€œIt was important to come to see him. He is a gift from God.â€
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