The Latest on Pope Francis' visit to Mexico, Feb. 17, 2016.
8:40 p.m.: Pope Francis is on his way back to Italy after a five-day visit in Mexico. His plane took off from the border city of Ciudad Juarez after night fell Wednesday. When he arrived at the airport, the pope embraced several children who ran out to meet him on the red carpet for a brief farewell ceremony. The children were among a crowd of hundreds waving white, white-and-yellow and red flags. Security seemed overwhelmed at one point as about a half dozen children surrounded the pontiff. The pope eventually walked to a staging point near the airliner, flanked by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and first lady Angelica Rivera. Francis waved goodbye to the crowd from a window as his airplane taxied away.
7:20 p.m.: At least one pilgrim at Pope Francis' final Mass in Mexico is happy he touched on all the themes she had hoped for. Wiping away a tear, Angeles Arevalo notes that the pontiff talked about migrants, disappeared women and the criminals who deal drugs and corrupt Mexico's young people. Arevalo hopes Francis' calls for compassion reached both sides of the border and may change people's minds about immigration in the United States. She says, "they are watching us from there as well." Ciudad Juarez resident Maribel Hernandez says she took away from Francis' homily that people should be compassionate and forgiving, a lesson she thinks applies to treatment of migrants. Standing next to her was Marielena Torres who said of the pope: "He is the Holy Father and he can help a lot." The Mass in Juarez was Francis' last big event in Mexico before he flies back to Rome on Wednesday night.
7:10 p.m.: Pope Francis has thanked Mexicans for their hospitality at his final Mass in the country and tried to reassure them that even if times seem dark, there are lights of hope. The pontiff says at times he "felt like weeping from seeing so much hope in a people that is suffering so much." He adds that there are many men and women working to ensure that "this Mexican society does not remain in darkness." Francis' appearance in the border city of Ciudad Juarez wraps up a five-day visit during which he repeatedly condemned the violence, corruption and poverty that tear apart many Mexican communities.
6:40 p.m.: Immigrants gathered in El Paso, Texas, along the U.S.-Mexico border to watch as Pope Francis offered a silent prayer for migrants say they were overcome with emotion by the pontiff's gesture. Before the start of his Mass across the border in Ciudad Juarez on Wednesday, Francis walked up a platform next to the Rio Grande and blessed people gathered a few yards away on the U.S. side. Angelica Ortiz is one of about 500 people who were invited to be on the U.S. side. She could barely speak after the pope's prayer, saying in Spanish, "I'm overcome by emotion, a lot of emotion." Ortiz says she left Juarez because drug traffickers threatened her son's life. She now lives in El Paso after being granted asylum with the help of a local migrant assistance group.
6:10 p.m.: Pope Francis has sent a special greeting to worshippers across the border at the end of his homily in Mexico's Ciudad Juarez. Francis directly addressed the estimated 30,000 people gathered in a stadium in El Paso, Texas, for a simulcast of the last Mass of his five-day trip. Francis said in Spanish: "Thanks to the help of technology, we can pray, sing and celebrate together this merciful love which the Lord gives us, and which no frontier can prevent us from sharing." The pope thanked those in El Paso "for making us feel like one family and the same Christian community."
6:00 p.m.: Pope Francis is urging the world to put a human face on the "tragedy that is forced migration" and recognize the plight of people who risk their lives to flee violence, extortion and poverty at home. In a politically symbolic Mass in Ciudad Juarez just 800 meters (yards) from Texas, Francis stopped short of directly calling for the United States to open its borders. Instead he urged people to have "open hearts" and recognize that the thousands of Central and South Americans who are fleeing gangland violence, organized crime and extortion in their home countries are victims of the worst forms of exploitation. He implored: "No more death! No more exploitation!" It was the most poignant moment of Francis' trip to Mexico, and came at a time of increasingly heated rhetoric on immigration in the U.S. presidential campaign. History's first Latin American pope has demanded countries welcome people fleeing persecution, war and poverty.
5:30 p.m.: Pope Francis has paused at the border fence between Mexico and the United States to pray for migrants. Silence fell over the nearby Ciudad Juarez fairgrounds as Francis walked up a ramp lined with yellow flowers to a specially built platform facing across the fence toward the United States. Next to a giant crucifix, he made the sign of the cross and blessed hundreds of people gathered a few yards away on the U.S. side. After a brief moment of prayer, Francis walked down the ramp and got back on his popemobile to head for the fairgrounds. That's where he will celebrate his last Mass during a five-day Mexico tour.
4:10 p.m.: Cruz Patricia Vazquez is holding a large portrait of her brother-in-law on the sun-baked expanse where Catholic faithful are gathering for Pope Francis' final Mass in Mexico. The brother-in-law is battling cancer, and Vasquez hopes that if the pope sees it there could be a miracle. She says: "With his prayer, he will be healed." Vazquez traveled to Ciudad Juarez from New Mexico on Wednesday, crossing one of the border bridges into Mexico at 5 a.m.
3:40 p.m.: People have begun filling up a football stadium in the West Texas city of El Paso, where about 30,000 Catholic faithful are expected to watch a livestream of Pope Francis celebrating Mass just across the border in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. El Paso resident Andrea Herrera says she and her parents got to the University of Texas at El Paso's Sun Bowl stadium at 7:30 a.m. to tailgate, eat the traditional Mexican soup called "menudo," decorate candles and pray. Herrera calls the event "our own pope-a-palooza." More than 200,000 people are expected to attend the Mass in Juarez, which is the last stop on Francis' five-day visit to Mexico.
1:05 p.m.: Religious leaders and migrants rights advocates in the United States say Pope Francis' acknowledgment during his visit to the U.S.-Mexico border of the struggles of immigrants will send a humanitarian message. Just before his Mass Wednesday afternoon in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Francis is to walk to the border fence along the Rio Grande, which separates the two countries. There, he'll offer a prayer for migrants on the other side and for those who died trying to get to the U.S. A group of about 500 people, including migrants and refugees, will be on the U.S. side. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville said at a news conference in El Paso Wednesday that "because something has political dimensions it doesn't mean that it does not also have moral dimensions
12:25 a.m.: Pope Francis is urging Mexican prisoners to look to the future and believe that their lives can change rather than dwell on the "sorrow and sin" that got them incarcerated. On his final day in Mexico Wednesday, Francis brought the message of his Holy Year of Mercy to the No. 3 prison in Ciudad Juarez, once considered the murder capital of the world. Francis told the 700 or so inmates gathered in the prison chapel that they cannot undo the past. But he said they must believe that things can change, and that they have the possibility of "writing a new story and moving forward." He said: "You have known the power of sorrow and sin and have not forgotten that within your reach is the power of the resurrection, the power of divine mercy which makes all things new." He urged the inmates to use their experience in prison for good, to help end the cycle of violence that has torn Mexico apart in recent years. "The one who has suffered the greatest pain, and we could say has experienced hell, can become a prophet in society," he said. "Work so that this society, which uses people and discards them, will not go on claiming victims."
11:05 a.m.: People have begun walking from the West Texas city of El Paso to Juarez, Mexico, where Pope Francis is holding a large outdoor Mass to cap his visit to the country. A steady stream of pedestrians walked across the Bridge of the Americas on Wednesday morning from El Paso into Juarez. Volunteers from the Catholic Diocese handed out free water bottles to those crossing the bridge. Luis Trillo was among the pedestrians despite pain from arthritis in his legs. He said he's excited to hear the pope's blessing at the afternoon Mass. Another of those walking, Maria Hermosillo, said she looks forward to being "in the presence of the spirit that the pope has."
10:55 a.m.: Pope Francis has touched down in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez, greeted by hundreds of people in bleachers set up at the city's airport. It's the final stop on a whirlwind five-day visit to the country, and it's expected to be one of the most dramatic as the pope tackles issues of violence and immigration from an altar set up right along the U.S. border. The faithful have been streaming along the city's closed-off streets to reach the site of the Mass, walking in pairs or in extended families, some bundled against the early morning cold.
10:25 a.m.: The temporary altar where Pope Francis is to celebrate an open-air Mass is snug against the U.S.-Mexico border -- with just a highway between its edge on the Rio Grande. The skyline of El Paso, Texas, is clearly visible and on Tuesday a U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter was so close it seemed to nearly fly over the altar while making a low, lazy path above the Rio Grande. Venders are hawking papal memorabilia -- from yellow and white flags to baseball caps and t-shirts with the pontiff's likeness.
9:15 a.m.: The airline that carried Pope Francis to Mexico says the plane carrying the pontiff was hit by a laser light from the ground as it arrived on Friday. Alitalia says no one was hurt and the aircraft landed safely. It said Wednesday that the crew notified the Mexico City airport's control tower of the incident. Officials around the world have been increasingly concerned about people training laser pointers on jetliners. In some cases, crewmembers have suffered eye damage.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration reported nearly 4,000 laser strikes in 2013.
9 a.m.: Pope Francis has ended his vist to Mexico's capital with a final mariachi serenade. But he's still got major events on today's schedule for northern Mexico. The Mexican Navy's mariachi band saw him away with a specially composed number: "Pope Francis, this isn't farewell, it's only see you later. May God bless you." And then he boarded a jet for the border city of Ciudad Juarez.
7:20 a.m.: Pope Francis is wrapping up his trip to Mexico on Wednesday with some of his most anticipated events. Those include a visit to a Ciudad Juarez prison just days after a riot in another lockup killed 49 inmates. He'll also stop at the Texas border at a moment when immigration is a hot issue for the U.S. presidential campaign. The pope has left his lodgings at the papal nuncio's residence in Mexico City for the last time on this visit after a farewell serenade by mariachis. He's beaming and waving to thick crowds along the streets as he heads to the airport in his popemobile to catch a flight to the northern border metropolis of Juarez. After the stop there, he'll fly home to Rome. Francis' final events cap a whirlwind five-day visit that focused heavily on the injustices faced by Mexico's poorest, most oppressed and vulnerable to the country's drug-fueled violence.