ECATEPEC, Mexico — Celebrating Mass for more than 300,000 people in one of Mexico's poorest and most dangerous cities Sunday, Pope Francis took a swipe at the country's rich and corrupt elite.
Decrying "a society of the few and for the few," he denounced deep inequality and the vanity and pride of those who consider themselves a cut above the rest.
"That wealth which tastes of pain, bitterness and suffering — this is the bread that a corrupt family or society gives its own children," the pope said at the Mass in the city of Ecatepec.
Ecatepec is home to a giant statue of "Santa Muerte," or Saint Death, a cult figure followed by millions across the Americas. The saint is often depicted as a skeletal "grim reaper" draped in white satin robes, beaded necklaces and carrying a scythe, and it is believed to grant requests without judging people.
Francis urged his listeners to struggle to make Mexico "a land of opportunities where there will be no need to emigrate in order to dream" and where drug traffickers, whom he called "dealers of death," would not ensnare their children.
Mexico is home to one of the world's richest men, billionaire Carlos Slim, and a wealthy political class stained by corruption even as much of the country is steeped in poverty and violence.
Fueled by a weak economy and youth unemployment, gang violence has driven the city's murder rate to one of Mexico's highest. It is notorious for the unsolved murders of scores of women, the bodies of many found abandoned in garbage dumps or tossed in a canal only miles from where Francis spoke Sunday.
But the pope urged Mexicans not to succumb to evil: "You cannot dialogue with the devil, because he will always win," he told them.