January 8, 2016

Pope Francis: Will you have tequila for me when I’m in Mexico?

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Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Sept. 11, 2013. Photo by Paul Haring/Catholic News Service

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Sept. 11, 2013. Photo by Paul Haring/Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis’ visit to Mexico next month is supposed to be more of a pilgrimage than a spring break, but a viral video of the pontiff joking about tequila with a Mexican man in St. Peter’s Square captures the voluble enthusiasm that is likely to greet the first Latin American pontiff.

In the video, Francis can be seen walking around St. Peter’s Square, flanked by his security detail as he greets the faithful, when a man shouts from the crowd, catching the pontiff’s attention.

“Pope! We’ll be waiting for you in Mexico! Mexico, Pope!” the man yells above the din. “Welcome to Mexico in February!”

“With tequila?” responds the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.

“Yes, with a lot of tequila!” the man’s replies excitedly.

The video was posted on Facebook by Carlos Alberto Cardona on Jan. 3 and has since attracted over 325,000 views.

Francis is hardly a party animal — he lives austerely in the Vatican and disdains receptions and official functions.

But he is a people person and loves mixing it up with the crowds and swapping one-liners, especially in his native Spanish.

And tequila shots aside, the short clip gives a sense of the anticipation that awaits the Argentine-born Francis in Mexico, whose 96 million Catholics make it the second-largest flock in the world after Brazil.

Francis had wanted to visit Mexico in September before his visit to the U.S., entering the U.S. across the border to make a statement about the importance of welcoming immigrants and refugees.

But the pope said he realized he needed “at least a week” to visit Mexico properly, and instead he traveled to Cuba first before heading to the U.S.

The pontiff is expected to draw millions to official events during the six-day trip, which starts on Feb. 12.

During his tour, Francis will celebrate Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Mexico City, visit a pediatric hospital and meet the indigenous community in San Cristobal de Las Casas, southern Mexico.

The pontiff has also promised a trip to Ciudad Juarez on the U.S. border, where he is scheduled to visit a prison and celebrate Mass. The border area has become a focal point in the immigration debate, which the pope highlighted during his visit to the U.S. in September.

In addition, the residents of Ciudad Juarez have suffered some of the worst violence in Mexico’s lengthy drugs war between cartels and the state, which has left tens of thousands of people dead.

(Rosie Scammell covers the Vatican for RNS)