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Pope begins first full day in Mexico

March 24, 2012 at 12:03 PM

LEON, Mexico, March 24 (UPI) -- Pope Benedict XVI's first full day in Mexico Saturday began quietly with a private celebration of mass at the college in Leon where he is staying.

Benedict is on his first visit to Mexico and Cuba as pope. Enthusiastic crowds greeted him after his plane from Rome landed Friday at Guanajuato in central Mexico, cheering from the roadside as he was driven the 20 miles to Leon, Voice of America reported.

The pope was scheduled to meet President Felipe Calderon in Guanajuato Saturday evening.

"There are many challenges that we have had to face in recent times," Calderon said, referring to drug violence. "The pope is welcomed by a people that have suffered.''

Speaking to reporters during the trans-Atlantic flight, Benedict blamed the drug war on a love of money and said the Catholic Church must work to keep young people from getting involved in narcotics trafficking.

Benedict is to spend five days in Mexico and Cuba. On Sunday he will celebrate an outdoor mass in Leon.

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