Mexico City: The families of the 43 students who went missing three months ago in Mexico have sought the intervention of Pope Francis to give more visibility to their search for justice, while the government has admitted that the country needs a more profound transformation in this regard.
The papal nuncio in Mexico, Christophe Pierre, held a Mass Monday for the students who disappeared Sep 26 from Iguala, in the southern state of Guerrero, and prayed for justice, reconciliation and peace in Mexico.
"The Pope is with you," Pierre told the students` families and classmates during the service, held on a soccer field at the Ayotzinapa Rural Normal School in Tixtla, where the missing youths were studying to become teachers.
The Catholic Church shares the families` pain and they are always in its prayers, said the papal representative.
Parents of the kidnapped students held up placards with messages such as "Merry Christmas, (President Enrique) Peña Nieto, we will continue looking for our missing", "Jesus Christ died for truth. Where is it?" and "Merry Christmas my son, wherever you are".
Following the Mass, the students` parents met privately with the nuncio for more than 30 minutes, urging him to ask Pope Francis to do more to raise the profile of the case.
The Argentine pontiff has publicly alluded to the missing students on two occasions, most recently during a Nov 12 public audience in St. Peter`s Square.
The 43 students disappeared on the night of Sep 26, after violence claimed six lives and left 25 injured, allegedly on the orders of then Iguala mayor Jose Luis Abarca, whose trial began Monday.
According to official investigations, the police handed over the students to drug-cartel enforcers who killed the young people and then incinerated their bodies at a nearby dump in Cocula, a version of the incidents that the families refuse to believe.
There have been about 80 arrests made so far, over a dozen of which have been policemen from the neighbouring Cocula municipality. Cocula Mayor Cesar Miguel Peñaloza also has been taken into preventive custody in connection with the case.
In this regard, Aurelio Nuño from President Enrique Peña Nieto`s office recognised the need for a more profound transformation in the country in matters of public security and justice in order to prevent crime.
"The country seeks justice for the barbaric acts committed in Iguala. The society and the government have to walk shoulder-to-shoulder to prevent such incidents from repeating, and to fight against the real enemies: impunity, poverty, inequality, violence and corruption," he said.
The case of the missing students has led to a loss of credibility of the government and negatively impacted Peña Nieto`s image.