Pope Francis met Wednesday with a Michoacán woman whose four sons are among Mexico’s more than 100,000 missing people.
María Herrera Magdaleno traveled to Vatican City to meet the pontiff on behalf of the large number of Mexicans whose loved ones have disappeared.
Jesuitas México and the Centro Prodh human rights organization said in a statement that the pope greeted and blessed Herrera, who hails from Pajacuarán, a municipality near Michoacán’s border with Jalisco.
Representatives of those two groups traveled to Rome with the mother of eight, whose sons Raúl, Salvador, Luis Armando and Gustavo have been missing for over a decade.
“The meeting occurred in the context of Mexico reaching more than 100,000 missing people, according to official statistics,” the statement said.
“In representation of thousands of Mexican families, María Herrera delivered information about this painful reality as well as the forensic backlog of more than 50,000 unidentified bodies and remains. On the person of Mrs. Herrera, the Holy Father blessed all the mothers and families who are looking for their disappeared loved ones.”
Jesuitas México and Centro Prodh said the meeting constituted “a call to governments to look for all missing people, identify people who still haven’t received a dignified burial due to the forensic crisis and adopt effective public policies to reduce violence.”
“It is also an invitation to churches, communities of faith and society to develop greater empathy with the victims of violence,” they said.
Herrera’s meeting with the pope came after she wrote to him earlier this month and after the United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances said in a report that abductions of children, adolescents and women are on the rise and that impunity in missing person cases is “almost absolute.”
In her letter, Herrera noted that Mexico’s missing persons count had passed 100,000 and that her four sons were among those whose whereabouts are unknown.
“In the face of the indifference of our governments mothers have to go out and look [for our children with] our own hands, picks and shovels,” she wrote.
“Don’t forget us,” Herrera implored. “Pray for us and call on our governments to look for the missing and stop the violence, on our pastors to accompany us more and on society to be more empathetic with our pain,” she wrote.
With reports from El Universal