Pope Francis will issue a decree authorizing the use of indigenous languages in Mass celebrations when he travels to Mexico next week, one of the symbolic gestures he will make in defense of Indian rights in the country. The Vatican said Friday that Francis will present the decree during a Mass dedicated to indigenous people in the state of Chiapas on Feb. 15. Some church authorities had long bristled at the inclusion of indigenous elements in Masses, which was championed by the late bishop of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Samuel Ruiz. Francis, however, has approved such translations of the liturgy and the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the Chiapas Mass itself would include readings and songs in three different indigenous languages. Francis travels to Mexico Feb. 12-18. Aside from the Mass, his one-day visit to Chiapas includes lunch with indigenous people and a visit to the cathedral of San Cristóbal de las Casas, where Ruiz is buried. Lombardi declined to say whether Francis would pray at Ruiz’s tomb, saying that while it’s not officially on the program “the pope is free to do these things.” Ruiz remains a controversial figure in the church and Mexico. Before his death in 2011, Ruiz became an icon of the struggle of the Mayan Indian groups who were long so marginalized and mistreated that they were forced to work in slave-like conditions into the early 20th century. Ruiz, a proponent of liberation theology, also served as a mediator in peace talks between the government and leftist Zapatista rebels.