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Pope winds up trip to Americas

With an embroidered Indian stole draped over his shoulders, an invigorated Pope John Paul II beatified two Mexican Indian martyrs yesterday, proclaiming them examples of "how one can reach God without renouncing one's own culture."

The exuberant ceremony heavy on Indian languages, music and dance wound up a grueling 11-day pilgrimage to the Americas aimed at reinforcing the church's appeal to Indians to counter Protestant gains.

As he ended his fifth trip to Mexico, the pope thanked the nation for its passionate welcome that saw millions pour into the streets to see him - as they did on every earlier visit.

"I go, but I do not leave," he said, quoting a popular song. "Although I go, in my heart I remain."

Shouts of "Don't go! Don't go!" rose from the crowd as he left the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

The 82-year-old pope was stooped and weary through much of the trip that began in Canada for World Youth Day and continued to Guatemala and Mexico. But he delivered all his scheduled speeches, tried to walk some steps and spoke in a clearer voice than he has for months.

On Thursday, the pope smiled, tapped his fingers and at one point even sang along to Indian band music as dancers leapt and spun in feathered headdresses.

The service included readings in seven Indian languages and included unusual borrowings from pre-Catholic Indian religious ceremonies. An Indian woman brushed herbs over the pope and other clerics, a practice originally meant to cleanse one of illness and harmful spirits.

John Paul was departing for Rome after the ceremony.


2 Aug 2002