Vatican City (AFP) - Pope Francis will visit Mexico's violence-plagued states of Michoacan and Chihuahua and the impoverished region of Chiapas during a February 12-18 visit, the pontiff announced during mass Saturday at St Peter's.
Following his homily Francis said he would be in Mexico "next February 13... to venerate in her sanctuary" Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico's City's basilica honouring the country's patron saint. It is the most-visited Marian shrine in the world.
The Vatican first announced back in October that the pope would be visiting and the Holy See's Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu announced last month the Argentine-born pontiff would visit the three states as well as hold talks with President Enrique Pena Nieto.
The first South American-born pope is keen to engage on social issues, from drug violence to migration, and will use the trip to meet with indigenous peoples as well as young people as well as prisoners and labour representatives, the Vatican's press service said.
The western state of Michoacan has been in thrall to a powerful drugs cartel while the northern state of Chihuahua is home to Ciudad Juarez, a city at the US border once known as Mexico's murder capital, notably of women, though the murder rate has dramatically dropped in recent years.
The southern state of Chiapas is one of the country's poorest regions with a large indigenous population. It is also a major transit route for migrants who illegally cross the Chiapas-Guatemala border.
Predecessor Benedict XVI visited Mexico in 2012 while his own predecessor Jean Paul II made five visits there in 26 years as head of the Roman Catholic Church.