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People In Mexico Are Still Obsessed With Pope John Paul II

Pope Francis has some big shoes to fill when he visits this week.

Posted on February 10, 2016, at 1:42 p.m. ET

When Pope Francis arrives in Mexico on Friday, he will have some big shoes to fill. In this staunchly Catholic country, the shadow of Pope John Paul II, who visited Mexico five times during his time as pope, looms large.

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A constant stream of people walked into the Basílica de Santa María de Guadalupe, the most visited Catholic shrine in the country, on Tuesday.

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"Like John Paul II, there will not be another one," said Angela Herrera, sitting on the bleachers that have been set up for Pope Francis' visit. "He really touched our hearts, he touched our soul."

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Pope Francis is expected to visit six cities and give five masses — including in the Basílica de Santa María de Guadalupe — during his visit to Mexico. More than 880,000 tickets to his events will be handed out in Mexico, home to 110 million Catholics.

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Between 17 and 20 million people visit the Basílica de Santa María de Guadalupe every year, according to some estimates.

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In the markets around the Basílica de Santa María de Guadalupe, in Mexico City, endless stalls sell bracelets, earrings, portraits and votive candles.

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Virgin Mary articles, including necklaces, keychains and paintings, are ubiquitous.

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Vendors say their best-selling articles are those with the image of Pope John Paul II, even as Pope Francis' visit draws closer.

Images of Pope Benedict XVI, who visited Mexico in 2012, are not to be found in the artisanal markets near this Catholic shrine. "We never sold anything of him," said Alicia Lopez, one of the vendors here. She said most vendors gave away merchandise emblazoned with Pope Benedict XVI's face.
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Images of Pope Benedict XVI, who visited Mexico in 2012, are not to be found in the artisanal markets near this Catholic shrine. "We never sold anything of him," said Alicia Lopez, one of the vendors here. She said most vendors gave away merchandise emblazoned with Pope Benedict XVI's face.

Some people complain it's taken Pope Francis three years to visit Mexico and note that Pope John Paul II chose to come here during his first official trip as pope.

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Pope Francis will have a bigger-than-usual security detail, many here say. Businesses around the places he's visiting will close for up to four days, public transportation will be shut down and people will have to keep their windows closed.

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"He thinks he's the king of England," said Pedro Hernandez, a vendor near the Basílica de Santa María de Guadalupe, speaking of Francis. This figurine of Pope John Paul II is one of his best-selling products.

Karla Zabludovsky for BuzzFeed News

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