REPORTING FROM MEXICO CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI will not include a stop in Mexico City on his trip to Latin America this spring, a tour that includes Mexico and Cuba. The reason, church officials say, is not fear about his security but rather concern for the 84-year-old pontiff's health. The sprawling capital sits at more than 7,000 feet, an altitude that can cause sickness in some people.
Officials of the Roman Catholic Church in both Mexico and Cuba released details of the pope's itinerary (links in Spanish). He will be in Mexico, in the state of Guanajuato, March 23-26, where he will be received by President Felipe Calderon and preside over an outdoor Mass expected to draw up to 400,000 faithful.
It may be coincidence, but it doesn't hurt the pope's cause that Guanajuato is a more conservative and traditionally Catholic state, while Mexico City, governed by a leftist mayor, is the only region in Mexico to have legalized abortion on demand and gay marriage.
After Mexico, the pope will spend two days, March 26-28, in Cuba, where he will meet with President Raul Castro. It's the first visit of a pontiff to the Communist-ruled island since Pope John Paul II's landmark trip in 1998. The church there has been increasingly active on behalf of jailed dissidents.
-- Tracy Wilkinson
Photo: Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on Sunday. Credit: Alessandro Di Meo / European Pressphoto Agency