Pope Francis will visit the US-Mexico border Feb. 17, where he’ll celebrate a large outdoor Mass in Ciudad Juárez, concluding his Feb. 12-17 trip to Mexico. The visit is sure to reignite the contentious debate about US immigration policy, which has risen to the top of the hotly contested presidential primaries.
Before the Mass, the first pope from Latin America will take a few moments to pray with undocumented migrants, immigration activists, and clergy gathered just yards away in Texas, separated only by the Rio Grande.
While that group is closed to the general public – the several hundred gathered on the levee overlooking the river have been dubbed “Francis VIPs” by event organizers – there are still other ways you can mark the occasion.
For instance, you might be able to get your hands on tickets to the Mass. The Diocese of El Paso received 10,000 tickets to the event, and the Diocese of Las Cruces, NM, received 5,000.
If you’re in the El Paso area without a ticket to the Mass in Juarez, you can buy tickets to a live concert at Sun Bowl Stadium, followed by a simulcast of the Mass. Unlike official papal events, which are always free, tickets for this event cost $15, available on Ticketmaster.
Local parishes are offering them at a discount, with officials from the El Paso diocese saying they have to charge for attendance in order to recoup unexpected costs.
Acts include performances by multi-platinum country music singer Collin Raye, guitarist Tony Melendez, the Diocesan Choir of El Paso, and the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Tigua Indian Social Dancers. The Rev. Tony Richard, chaplain to the New Orleans Saints, will speak.
After the concert, the prayer service and the Mass will be simulcast inside the stadium. Pope Francis will be able to see a livestream of the stadium from the altar in Juarez, and he is expected to bless the crowd during the Mass.
The Sun Bowl opens at noon local time, and hotel rooms are still available in El Paso, starting at $70 per night.
If you can’t make it to El Paso, but still want to participate, the Vatican TV livestream of the Mass will be available on Crux. Mass is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, with the prayer service coming shortly before that.
Catholics are also taking to social media to mark the occasion.
The Ignatian Solidarity Network, for example, launched a social justice initiative called #Pope2Border, urging Catholics to urge lawmakers to pass immigration reforms laws and host an event to watch the Mass online, and Twitter is marking the occasion with special Pope Francis themed emojis and hashtags. The Border Network for Human Rights placed a huge sign along the César Chávez Border Highway reading #ImmigrantLivesMatter in an attempt to attract the pope’s attention and get a conversation started online.
The event has been dubbed “Two Nations, One Faith” in order to hammer home the Church’s view that the border shouldn’t be a barrier to solidarity between Americans and Mexicans. To further the point, organizers selected a student who lives in Juarez but attends St. Pius X Catholic School in El Paso to greet the pontiff when he arrives in Juarez.