In crime-plagued periphery, pope preaches conversion

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February 14, 2016

People wave the flags of Mexico and the Vatican as they wait for Pope Francis' arrival to celebrate Mass in Ecatepec near Mexico City Feb. 14. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See POPE-ECATEPEC Feb. 14, 2016.

People wave the flags of Mexico and the Vatican as they wait for Pope Francis’ arrival to celebrate Mass in Ecatepec near Mexico City Feb. 14. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

ECATEPEC, Mexico (CNS) — Pope Francis began his travels to Mexico’s “peripheries” by visiting an overcrowded, sprawling settlement known internationally as a hunting ground for girls to force into prostitution and for boys to enlist in the drug trade.

Ecatepec, on the northern edge of Mexico City, also has tidy gated communities and a new shopping mall with department stores like Sears, a big WalMart, Starbucks and dozens of other shops and restaurants.

Pope Francis celebrated Mass Feb. 14 on a vast open field with some 300,000 people. The high altar platform was decorated with Aztec designs — flowers and birds — made of flowers and petals.

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