Silao (Mexico): Pope Benedict XVI began a pilgrimage to the New World calling on Mexicans to conquer an "idolatry of money" that feeds drug violence and urged Cuba to leave behind Marxism that "no longer responds to reality."
   
Mexican President Felipe Calderon and first lady Margarita Zavala greeted the Pope on Friday and escorted him along a red carpet amid a clanging of church bells and cheers from a crowd waving Vatican flags.
   
A swelling throng gathered to cheer him along his path from the airport on his first visit to Spanish-speaking Latin America.
   
"Benedict, brother, you are now Mexican," people shouted from the crowd. He descended the stairs without the cane he had used when he walked to the plane in Rome, the first time he had walked with it in public.
   
After the Alitalia plane carrying the Pope landed, the streets of Leon took on a carnival atmosphere as the crowds and their enthusiasm grew steadily.
   
Police blocked traffic on the central boulevard of Leon that the Pope would travel, and people lined up three and four deep on both sides of the avenue. Everyone stopped to watch the arrival on television in restaurants and shops.
   
"Mexico is standing because we're a country that perseveres with hope and solidarity, we're a people with values and principles that believe in family, liberty, justice and democracy," Calderon said on the tarmac to cheers of "Viva!" from the crowd.
   
"Your visit fills us with joy in moments of great tribulation." Mentions of Pope John Paul II by the President and Benedict brought more cheers.
   
Earlier on the plane, the Pope said a lust for money was behind the drug violence that has claimed more than 47,000 lives in the country since a government crackdown began in 2006.
   
On Monday, Benedict will head for Cuba. He said it is "evident that Marxist ideology as it was conceived no longer responds to reality," and he urged Cubans to "find new models, with patience, and in a constructive way."

(Agencies)