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Media : Mexico's Press Is Singing Few Hosannas Over John Paul II's Visit

May 22, 1990

MEXICO CITY Pope John Paul II's 10-day visit to Mexico, which ended last week, renewed an emotional debate over the church-state relationship in Latin America's only officially anti-clerical country, and comments in the Mexican media reflected that debate.

The Pope, making his second trip to Mexico, pushed for constitutional changes to legalize the Roman Catholic Church, lobbied for Catholic schools and spoke out against birth control, which the government actively supports. In actions that drew criticism from some quarters, President Carlos Salinas de Gortari embraced the Pope upon his arrival at the airport and received him at the official residence, and the government helped pay the costs of the pontiff's Mexican tour. Among the media reaction:

"All indications are that the Mexican government, in its actions around the papal visit, only managed to distance itself from the liberal sectors without completely satisfying Mexican Catholics. Many of those loyal to the church are uncomfortable with the government participation in the visit. . . . Others are indignant over the ecclesiastic intromission into social and political issues. . . . In other words, there are indications that the ambiguous management of the second papal visit, by government as well as church authorities, could contribute, paradoxically, to an increase in anti-clericalism in Mexico, or at least to the polarization of positions. . . ."

--Roberto Blancarte, La Jornada

"Pope John Paul II's pastoral visit to Mexico has not modified relations between the Catholic Church and the Mexican state; therefore, there will be no reforms to Article 130 of the constitution, Interior Secretary Fernando Gutierrez Barrios underscored yesterday. . . .

"The warm personal reception that President Carlos Salinas de Gortari gave to the High Pontiff 'was only the attention and courtesy to a prominent visitor and to a distinguished man of our world,' Gutierrez Barrios added. Clearly it arises from the Mexican chief executive's profound respect for the freedom of belief of his people, a majority of whom are Catholic. Nonetheless, the official welcome in no way affects other aspects of a diplomatic nature nor does it signify that there are going to be constitutional reforms to re-establish relations between the Mexican state and the Vatican state. . . .

"But if nothing has changed legally--nor should it--the cordial treatment between the president of the republic and the High Pontiff signal the beginning of a new era of respect between the church and state in Mexico, the same that is reflected in the recent exchange of personal representatives between Salinas and John Paul II. . . . "It is cause for profound satisfaction among all Mexicans to observe that the tensions and hostilities that once characterized church-state relations and divided national society have now diminished."

--Editorial in El Nacional

" 'Buzzards that cackle with anger and jealousy before a batch of newly hatched peacocks.' In this graphic and aggressive manner, Bishop Genaro Alamilla, spokesman for the (Mexican) Episcopal Conference, referred to those who, in spite of the enormous crowds who gathered to receive the Pope . . . insist on opposing the demands of the Catholic Church. . . . "The president needs an active and positive relationship with, among others, the Catholic Church, since this could be one of his great pillars of support in this difficult period of transition from the economic system based in the state's activity to another where the state's role will be less. . . . "The church's support for the government and for Carlos Salinas' program arises from the impressive concentration of millions and millions of Mexicans who of their own free will . . . suffered all types of discomfort in order to listen or to see the Pope for an instant. This mobilization contrasts enormously with the inability of the government--and of other non-government leaders--to awaken at least a fraction of the collective emotion that the second papal visit to Mexico caused."

--Lorenzo Meyer, Excelsior

"The Pope contradicts himself. On the one hand, he pities the poor; on the other hand, he reveals himself as the enemy of any population control in the name of the right to life. At the root, he proposes very rich countries with an adequate population, and very poor countries with a population overflow, incapable of providing jobs or basic services.

"In this case, as in others, his visit was not strictly pastoral, but political. Perhaps without desiring so, he blessed the proliferation that is causing us so many and such big injuries."

--Fernando Benitez, La Jornada

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