El Paso Bishop Mark J. Seitz and El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser announced plans for a local event that will be held Feb. 17 in conjunction with Pope Francis' visit to El Paso's sister city of Ciudad Juarez in Mexico.
Called "Two Nations, One Faith," the celebration will take place at Sun Bowl Stadium on the campus of the University of Texas at El Paso.
"In spite of the borders and boundaries that exist, we see ourselves as one great Catholic community, and we are immensely grateful and honored that our universal pastor, Pope Francis, has chosen to come to our area," Bishop Seitz said in a Jan. 18 statement. "We celebrate this great day for our brothers and sisters in Juarez."
Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, is the last stop on Pope Francis' five-day Mexico tour. The Juarez visit will include a trip to a local prison, a visit with Juarez workers at a manufacturing operation, or "maquila," and with business leaders. To conclude the visit, he will celebrate an open-air Mass at the fairgrounds in Ciudad Juarez. A crowd of 220,000 is expected there.
In mid-January, the El Paso Diocese scrapped plans for a border Mass that would have taken place at the same time as the pope's closing Mass.
Elizabeth O'Hara, a spokeswoman for the El Paso Diocese, said at the time that security concerns over the size of the anticipated crowd for a U.S.-based Mass taking place at the same time as the Juarez Mass prompted the change in plans.
"The pope is still considered a head of state," O'Hara told Catholic News Service Jan. 13. The Juarez fairgrounds is about a quarter-mile from the U.S.-Mexico border.
"It became apparent that we didn't know how many people we could potentially house on the border, which posed a safety risk to those in attendance," O'Hara added in a Jan. 13 email.
The diocese started planning a substitute event on the U.S. side of the border, resulting in the celebration at the 45,000-seat Sun Bowl.
The Texas diocese has been allotted 5,000 tickets for the Juarez Mass. Those El Pasoans and out-of-town visitors who do not have tickets to that Mass can get tickets to Sun Bowl Stadium, which will have real-time broadcast of the Juarez Mass.
The diocese said the "Two Nations, One Faith" celebration will include national and local entertainers as well as religious and cultural elements. Names of the entertainers are to be announced at a later date. The diocese emphasized the celebration is not a Mass and holy Communion "will not be offered."
Tickets for the Sun Bowl celebration will be $15 for the general public.
Bishop Seitz and Leeser also announced the launch of a new web site for the event -- www.twonationsonefaith.com. The site will have all information regarding the El Paso events. The city and the diocese will also use the hashtag #2nations1faith as a hub for information on social media.
During his Feb. 12-17 trip to Mexico, Pope Francis will visit some of that nation's most marginalized communities and seek to bring hope to a country deeply suffering from crime, corruption and inequality, according to the Vatican. Ciudad Juarez is one of six cities he will visit.