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Mexican President kisses Papal ring, breaking a taboo. (News in Brief).

Mexico City -- When President Vicente Fox kissed John Paul II's ring during the July 31 welcome ceremony, he broke a decades-old taboo in Mexican politics. Newspapers splashed pictures of the event on their front pages. "Mexico hands itself to JP," read a page-one headline in the Reforma newspaper. "Fox's kiss has impact," El Universal commented in an eight-column article. La Jornada simply asked: "And the lay state?"

For most of the 20th century, the Church in Mexico lacked all legal recognition. Priests were stripped of most of their civil rights. The situation was inherited from the Constitution as well as the 1920s laws which accompanied a bloody religious persecution. The Church and other religious professions were not legally recognized until 1992 during Carlos Salinas de Gortari's administration.

Until 2000, during the more than 70 years that the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) was in power, Mexican presidents refused to make any public manifestation of their faith, considering it a violation of church-state separation. Enesto Zedillo, the last PRI president, broke some of the taboos when he attended the inauguration of the Cathedral of Ecatepec, near the capital, on March 25,1999. He did not make a public expression of his faith, however. Vicente Fox, who openly admits he is Catholic, has broken with this tradition. After winning the elections of July 2000, he surprised the country when he knelt down before the image of the Blessed Virgin in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, before receiving the presidential sash the following day.

This concept of church-state separation was typical of 19th-century Masonic groups who wanted to impede politicians from manifesting their faith. It was criticized on the eve of the Pope's visit to Mexico by Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, Archbishop Primate of the county. The cardinal said on July 28 that Mexico does not yet enjoy full religious liberty. "It is not necessary to engage in juridical fabrications, because the president is president in and out of his home, in and out of the Church," he said. He cited the example of President Fox, who was to remove his sash of investiture before attending Juan Diego's canonization.

The Archbishop Primate said that legal changes are required to reinforce church-state relations, something the legislative branch must address. Current laws deny the Church the right to express herself in the media, and to teach religion in schools (Zenit, July 31/02).
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Publication:Catholic Insight
Date:Sep 1, 2002
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