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Thousands of People Gather at U.S./Mexico Border as Pope Francis Holds Mass on the Rio Grande

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In a historic move, Pope Francis held mass on the U.S./Mexico border on Wednesday, as he wrapped up a provocative trip through Mexico, according to reports.

Nearly 70,000 people stood together on both sides of the Rio Grande river as the pope said Mass and gave a message on the necessity of fair pay, human dignity, and ending the ubiquitous violence in Mexico, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Prior to starting Mass, Pope Francis was seen atop a ramp that overlooked the river between El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico – a famous crossing point for those trying to gain access into the U.S. A large cross, surrounded by several smaller ones, stood behind the pope, as a symbol of the migrants who died as they attempted to cross the border.

Although the pope did not enter the U.S., residents in El Paso stood on a levee that ran along the bank of the river, getting as close as possible, without crossing borders, the Times reports.

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While addressing the crowd, the pontiff reportedly credited a worldwide “human tragedy” for forcing people to leave their homelands unwillingly, describing the decision to trek across the border as “a journey laden with grave injustices: the enslaved, the imprisoned, and extorted.”

According to the LA Times, he also called attention to the corruption by government officials and authorities, and drug trafficking that plagues parts of the country, affecting its youth.

“Injustice is radicalized in the young,” he said. “They are ‘cannon fodder,’ persecuted and threatened when they try to flee the spiral of violence and the hell of drugs.”

Pope Francis boarded a plane back to Rome on Wednesday night.