Pope Francis has confirmed he plans to visit four cities in Mexico in February including the U.S. border town of Ciudad Juarez, from where he says he will end his trip to the country.
The pontiff confirmed the visit in a conversation with several reporters aboard the papal plane heading from Rome to Nairobi, Kenya Wednesday for the start of his Nov. 25-30 trip to three African countries.
While Mexican church and national officials have both publicly said the pope will visit their country Feb. 12-20, the Vatican has yet to officially confirm the voyage. An advance team from the Vatican had also been reported to have been scouting out Juarez as a possible location during the trip.
Francis told reporters he plans to start the Mexico trip in the south of the country and then work his way north, visiting different towns along the way.
The visit to Juarez will certainly carry much symbolism. Before his September trip to the United States, the pontiff had said he had wished to visit a town on the Mexico-U.S. border during that trip but was unable to make the arrangements work.
Francis has spoken out frequently about issues of migration, calling for humane treatment of migrants and refugees.
The pope will be visiting Kenya, Uganda, and the Central African Republic beginning Wednesday afternoon.
[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]