Speaking at a conference with Mexico’s foreign relations secretary, the Vatican’s secretary of state hailed church-state relations in Mexico as exemplary – a recognition of the improved position of the Church in a country where priests were previously persecuted and Catholic rebels took up arms against an anti-clerical government.
“Today (in Mexico), the Church and the State are called to be an example for other countries to show that it is possible to overcome extremism and polarization, creating more and more a culture of fraternity, freedom, dialogue and solidarity,” Cardinal Pietro Parolin said April 26. at a conference marking the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Mexico and the Vatican.
“It is perhaps premature to offer an assessment,” Cardinal Parolin said. “But being aware of the long and complex historical path traveled in Mexico in the relationship between Church and State, it is important… to look to the future, opening new spaces for dialogue and institutional collaboration “.
Mexico and the Vatican officially established diplomatic relations in 1992, ending a period when the Catholic Church had no official legal status in the country. The approval that year of the Religious Associations and Public Worship Act removed anti-clerical measures such as rules prohibiting priests and nuns from wearing their robes in public.
Relations reached such an acrimonious point early in the last century that the Cristero Rebellion broke out in western Mexico between 1926 and 1929, and churches were closed.
Church watchers say church-state relations existed informally before 1992, but were low-key — so much so that then-president José López Portillo welcomed St. John -Paul II on his arrival in 1979 with the laconic greeting: “I leave you in the hands of the hierarchy and the faithful of your church and may everything be for the good of humanity.
Mexican politicians, who in recent years have avoided public appearances with the prelates, have subsequently sought out the pope for photo ops. Church watchers say the restoration of relations in 1992 came as then-president Carlos Salinas de Gortari sought to legitimize a series of structural reforms, including the privatization of hundreds of state-owned companies.
Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard – who fell out of favor with religious leaders when he was mayor of Mexico City after promoting laws decriminalizing abortion and allowing same-sex marriage – appeared with Cardinal Parolin at the conference. Many people think Ebrard has presidential aspirations.
“I see growing action by the Holy See and Mexico on the international scene, in favor of peace in a difficult, uncertain and conflicted world that awaits us,” Ebrard said. The Vatican and Mexico, he added, agree on “the search for peace and the taking of concrete actions to reduce arms trafficking, the production of arms, the proliferation of arms in the world”. .
Prior to the conference, Cardinal Parolin met with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador at the National Palace. The two men then went together to the inauguration of a temporary replica of the Sistine Chapel built in the central square of the Zócalo.
Neither Cardinal Parolin nor López Obrador commented on their meeting. López Obrador, who identifies as a “Christian,” then tweeted: “Relations with the Catholic Church result in friendship and respect. … I personally consider Pope Francis to be an exceptional spiritual leader and humanist.
Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum – who also reportedly has presidential aspirations – also greeted Cardinal Parolin at the Zócalo. She then tweeted: “I think we are living a special moment in relations (between Mexico and the Vatican) because the thought of @Pontifex_es shares the principles of austerity, justice, love for others and orientation towards the poor” — ideas raised often by López Obrador.
Passing through Mexico, Cardinal Parolin celebrated on April 23 the episcopal ordination of the new Apostolic Nuncio in the Republic of Congo and Gabon, the Mexican Archbishop Javier Herrera Corona.
The Cardinal also celebrated Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe on April 25 for the inauguration of the biannual meeting of Mexican bishops.
Cardinal Parolin warned the Mexican Bishops, “We are facing difficult times, caused by various ideologies and interests that seem to want to supplant true Gospel values.” But he urged them to keep “eyes open to see the miseries of the world, the wounds of so many brothers and sisters deprived of dignity”.
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