Inmates at Cereso 3, a notorious Mexican prison decorated with gang-related murals in what was once the world’s most dangerous city, have begun to prepare for Pope Francis. They have practiced their singing, painted wooden church benches and welded a new steel bell tower for the Wednesday visit of Francis to Ciudad Juárez, a former drug war zone across the border from Texas. 

The papal visit is “a message for everyone to tell them, we can reconcile with those who did wrong,” the Rev. Roberto Luna, pastor of Corpus Christi Parish and former director of the diocesan outreach to young offenders, told Catholic Herald. “It’s the year of mercy. ... We can reconcile with everyone, even those who did wrong.”

The pope arrives in Mexico City Friday to begin a multiday tour designed to highlight Mexico’s growing struggles with poverty, immigration and corruption. Mexico is the world’s second-largest Catholic country and the Argentine-born pontiff is expected to use his influence and moral authority to speak out on issues that could resonate throughout the Americas. 

Francis will celebrate Masses at both the southern and northern borders in a move that is expected to highlight the plight of immigrants crossing through Mexico to reach the United States. The Vatican broadcasts live streams of the pope’s Masses here. 

In Chiapas, which borders Guatemala, the pope will hold Mass in San Cristóbal de las Casas and visit with families in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the state capital. In Ciudad Juárez, the pope will give an open-air Mass near the border with El Paso, Texas. Juárez, until recently, was one of the most violent cities in the world because of drug cartel-related kidnappings and murders.  

“The visit is to Mexico but it’s also a visit to us,” Allen Sanchez, executive director of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, told the Associated Press. “He’ll be next door.”

Francis will also tour the state of Michoacán, which has been especially hard hit by drug trade violence that has killed tens of thousands of people since 2006. It’s unclear if he will increase his typical security protocols while traveling in such dangerous regions. Unlike previous popes, Francis is known to ride through busy cities in a popemobile that is open and unarmored.

Mexico is home to about 113 million people and nearly 89 percent of them identify as Catholic, making the country one of the most devout in Latin America. 

The pope’s full schedule during his Mexico tour can be found below (all times are local):

Friday, Feb. 12

12:30 p.m.    Departure from Fiumicino Airport in Rome for Mexico City

7:30 p.m.     Arrival at Benito Juárez International Airport in Mexico City

Saturday, Feb. 13

9:30 a.m.     Welcoming ceremony at the National Palace in Mexico City and visit to the president of the republic

10:15  a.m.   Meeting with civil authorities and diplomatic corps in Mexico City

11:30 a.m.     Meeting with bishops of Mexico in Mexico City

5 p.m.     Holy Mass in the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City (Homily by the Holy Father)

Sunday, Feb. 14

9:20 a.m.     Transfer by helicopter to Ecatepec outside Mexico City

10:30  a.m.   Holy Mass in the area of the Study Center of Ecatepec (Homily/Angelus by the Holy Father)

12:50 p.m.     Transfer by helicopter to Mexico City

1:10 p.m.    Arrival in Mexico City

4:30 p.m.    Visit to the Pediatric Hospital Federico Gómez 

6:00 p.m.    Meeting with the World of Culture in the National Auditorium 

Monday, Feb. 15

7:30 a.m.     Departure by plane for Tuxtla Gutiérrez

9:15  a.m.   Transfer by helicopter to San Cristóbal de Las Casas

10:15 a.m.    Holy Mass with the indigenous community of Chiapas at the Municipal Sports (Homily by the Holy Father)

1:00 p.m.     Lunch with indigenous representatives and the papal entourage

3:00  p.m.    Visit to the Cathedral of San Cristòbal de las Casas

3:35 p.m.    Transfer by helicopter to Tuxtla Gutiérrez

4:15 p.m.    Meeting with Families in Víctor Manuel Reyna Stadium at Tuxtla Gutiérrez (Discourse by the Holy Father)

6:10 p.m.    Departure by plane for Mexico City

8:00 p.m.    Arrival at the airport in Mexico City

Tuesday, Feb. 16

7:50 a.m.    Departure by airplane for Morelia

10:00 a.m.    Holy Mass with priests, religious, consecrated persons and seminarians (Homily by the Holy Father)

3:15 p.m.     Visit to the Cathedral

4:30 p.m.    Meeting with Young People at José María Morelos y Pavón Stadium (Discourse by the Holy Father)

6:55  p.m.   Departure by plane for Mexico City

8:00 p.m.    Arrival in Mexico City

Wednesday, Feb. 17

8:35 a.m.     Departure by plane for Ciudad Juárez

10:00 a.m.    Arrival at Abraham González International Airport in Ciudad Juárez

10:30 a.m.     Visit to Cereso 3 prison(Discourse by the Holy Father)

Noon     Meeting with the World of Work at the Colegio de Bachilleres dello Stato of Chihuahua (Discourse by the Holy Father)

4:00 p.m.    Holy Mass at the fairgrounds of Ciudad Juárez  (Homily + greeting by the Holy Father)

7:00  p.m.    Departure ceremony at Ciudad Juárez International Airport

7:15 p.m.    Departure by plane for Rome (Ciampino Airport)

Thursday, Feb. 18

2:45 p.m.     Arrival at Rome’s Ciampino Airport