Mexico City (EFE) .- Mexico is celebrating 30 years of restoring diplomatic relations with the Vatican, amid ongoing tensions between the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador and the Mexican Catholic Church despite its ideological harmony with Pope Francis.

The Holy See and Mexico re-established ties on September 21, 1992 after having suspended them in 1861, with the separation of Church and State from President Benito Juárez, which reinforced the current Constitution of 1917, which established a secular nation.

Therefore, in order to restore the relationship, it was necessary to reform Article 130 of the Constitution and enact the Law on Religious Associations and Public Worship, which recognized the legal personality of churches and religious associations.

Experts consulted by Efe agree on the relevance that Mexico has for the Vatican, where there are nearly 98 million Catholics, the second highest figure in the world, only behind Brazil, according to the latest census of 2020.

“From the beginning of the conquest, Mexico became one of the basic points of support of the Vatican State in Latin America”, explains José Antonio Alonso, Spanish-Mexican researcher at the Meritorious Autonomous University of Puebla (BUAP) and one of the main originators of relations between the two states.

current tensions

The anniversary comes after disagreements between the Mexican Catholic Church and López Obrador and his party, the National Regeneration Movement (Morena), over issues including violence, sexual rights and abuses of the 16th century conquest.

The president and the priests traded the most critical criticism last June, when the priests questioned their security strategy after the killing of two Jesuits in the northern state of Chihuahua.

“So what do the priests want? That we solve problems through violence? Are we all going to disappear? Are we going to bet on war? Why didn’t they act, when (former President Felipe) Calderón (2006-2012), this way? Why were they silent when the massacres were ordered? “, said López Obrador then.

The president, who does not consider himself a Catholic but a “follower of Jesus Christ”, also criticized Mexico’s Catholic hierarchy in 2020 for failing to reproduce Pope Francis’ message against neoliberalism.

Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (r) listens to a letter read by Cardinal Rogelio Cabrera, Archbishop of Monterrey, in a file photograph. EFE/Sashenka Gutierrez

While the Church in 2021 accused “ruling party federal lawmakers” of “stubbornly pushing an agenda heavily laden with ideology,” such as LGBT rights, abortion and marijuana.

In addition, López Obrador insisted last year, during the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the consummation of independence and 500 years of the conquest, that the Vatican apologize for abuses against indigenous peoples.

For the researcher Alonso, author of “Encounter with the Vatican”, the president acts “with a lot of wisdom, because he has not made any definitive statement, but he does not act with the same submission as previous presidents”.

“This is perhaps the beginning, I hope, that all the presidents and all the authorities of Mexico learn this attitude of a greater critical sense towards the pope, the Vatican and also other presidents” , he believes.

Hook up with daddy

Despite these tensions, López Obrador has never ceased to express his admiration for Pope Francis, whom he even proposes as a mediator to negotiate peace between Russia and Ukraine, and a 5-year truce between the powers.

Although he is not a Catholic, the president has affinities with Francisco’s speech against neoliberalism and his social doctrine of the preferential option for the poor, common among Latin American Jesuits, explains William Jensen, associate of the Council Mexican International Affairs (Comexi).

Pope Francis greets two faithful, at the José María Morelos y Pavón stadium in Morelia (Mexico), in an archive photograph. EFE/Ulysse Ruiz Basurto

“The pope had a speech marked by austerity, pro-poor and critical of the concentration of wealth, something that resonates very well with the narrative of President López Obrador,” says Jensen, an international political analyst.

The expert recalls that the affinity began during the campaign in 2018, when López Obrador proposed that the pope broker peace talks in Mexico to end drug-related violence.

With this, the president marked a contrast with the former presidents of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), who lived in constant negotiation with the Church, and of the National Action Party (PAN), who showed a natural conservative affinity.

“López Obrador and Francisco have their own very personal style, and both have caused disruption within their institutions, but we will have to wait and see how relations between Mexico and the Vatican develop after their departure,” he says.

Web editor: Juan David Mosos

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