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JOHN PAUL II GIVES REASONS FOR TRIP TO MEXICO AND U.S.
Hopes "To Reinforce Evangelical Ties of Unity and Solidarity" in America

VATICAN CITY, JAN 17 (ZENIT).- John Paul II is all set to go on his 85th international trip which, this time, will take him to Mexico and the United States. The Pope spoke about his trip this noon to faithful gathered in Saint Peter's Square. "From January 22 to 28 I shall travel to Mexico City and Saint Louis in the United States to give the faithful of the American continent the post-Synod exhortation which includes the suggestions and direction resulting from the recent Synod of Bishops for America."
The Holy Father was in good spirits, and the pilgrims enjoyed a beautiful sunny winter morning at the Vatican. John Paul II asked them for their prayers "during this important apostolic trip, which gives me the long awaited opportunity to return, as a pilgrim, to the Virgin of Guadalupe, Patroness of Mexico and the Americas, where I was twenty years ago on the occasion of the first apostolic pilgrimage of my pontificate."
Indeed, in January, 1979, the Pope began his inimitable pastoral ministry by a significant trip to Mexico which at the time, unlike at present, did not recognize the Catholic Church in law, and had no relations with the Holy See. But the Mexicans, "always faithful," took to the streets in impressive numbers, establishing a precedent for the next papal visit, to Poland in 1979, which sparked the historic changes which were to change the face of Europe in the decade of the 80s.
At the end of his address and before bidding the pilgrims farewell, the Holy Father expressed the fundamental concerns that compel him to travel later this week: "to reinforce the ties of unity and solidarity, in order that evangelical witness be credible and effective everywhere." These concerns were acutely felt at the end of 1997, during the Synod, when the bishops of the entire continent, meeting for the first time in history, discovered a new unity among all the Catholics of the Americas, whose symbol is the Virgin of Guadalupe. New joint strategies for evangelization and commitment to social solidarity were expressed, and committed to the concluding papal document for implementation. It is an enterprise which the Pope, as is his custom, entrusted to Mary, the "Mother of the Church," on the eve of his departure for the New World.