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Pope Francis to visit Mexico in February, church official says

MEXICO CITY -- Pope Francis will arrive in Mexico on Feb. 12 to start his long-awaited visit to the heavily Roman Catholic country, a church official said Sunday.

Mexican Cardinal Norberto Rivera didn't provide any more details about the visit, only saying the pontiff would arrive in Mexico City on that date. Local media reported that the visit would last until Feb. 20.

Archdiocese spokesman Carlos Villa Roiz confirmed Rivera's comments, which were made Sunday during a homily in Mexico City.

Villa Roiz told The Associated Press that a Vatican official would be traveling to Mexico soon to arrange the pope's agenda for the trip. During the visit, Francis is expected to address the violence in Mexico as well as migration, one of the central themes of his papacy.

Francis had said he wanted to enter the U.S. from Mexico in a sign of solidarity with migrants during his recent U.S. trip but that the schedule didn't allow for it. Some Mexican church officials are hoping the pope will tour the U.S. border region.

Officials had previously said the pope would visit Mexico in 2016 without providing a specific date for his arrival.

The last pope to visit Mexico was Benedict XVI in March 2012.

Francis spent six days in the U.S. in September and visited three major cities. During the first two legs of his U.S. visit, in Washington and New York, he addressed Congress and the United Nations, urging action on such global issues as climate change and inequality.

He capped his U.S. tour by visiting Philadelphia. During his trip to the U.S. the pope had many surprises. While in Philadelphia, he visited a jail to give hope of redemption to about 100 inmates, included suspected killers, rapists and mobsters.

The pope also met with five victims of child sexual abuse and told them he was "deeply sorry" for the times they came forward to tell their stories and weren't believed. He assured them that he believes them and that bishops who covered up for abusers will be made to answer for what they did.

"I pledge to you that we will follow the path of truth wherever it may lead," Francis said in Spanish. "Clergy and bishops will be held accountable when they abuse or fail to protect children."

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