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The Catholic Church



     In Mexico, Church and State have made their peace, but it is an uneasy one, with non-believer Cuautémoc Cárdenas adding a third ring to the circus. When he was governor of the Federal District he tried to have the railing in front of the Cathedral removed to prove that the whole of the Zócalo square was secular. This was important, since legally the Church is forbidden to hold public processions. Cárdenas quietly gave up his attempt.
     Now the tide is moving in the opposite direction. The new Nuncio Leonardo Sandri was received by President Zedillo, and the two conversed privately for half an hour. He then read a statement calling for freedom of religion, by which he was not referring to Protestant groups but to the removal of the legal restrictions on the Catholic Church.
     Without waiting for a formal change, the Church announced that there would be a eucharistical congress, the first in a very long time. The sacred host would be mounted on a truck. lead a procession around the Zócalo Square, then proceed down Cinco de Mayo Avenue and halt before the Palacio de Bellas Artes, where a final ceremony would be held. This would seem to be a direct challenge to the city government, whose response was not evident. Perhaps President Zedillo told the Church to go ahead.
     That brought up the thorny question of religious education in schools, which the Church wanted. Televisa conducted one of its polls and found that two thirds of the respondents were opposed. At first the question offered ethics as a substitute, but that was dropped to make the religious question clear. Since PAN candidate Vicente Fox was regarded as the candidate of the Church, he was asked what his attitude would be to religious education in schools. He simply said that education would be his priority. Since a previous poll had indicated opposition to the Church serving as mediator in Chiapas, the new Bishop of San Cristóbal, Felipe Arizmendi, said he had no desire to take on the job. Emilio Rabasa, the official coordinator of peace efforts in Chiapas, must have felt more secure in his job.
     Meanwhile the fight between the federal government and that of the Federal District, which had been kicking "the Cook" around like a football, now found another victim, Paola Durante. An attractive mother of a five-year daughter, she earned her living as a dancer and was connected with Paco Stanley. Accused of being involved in his murder, she had been in jail for seven months. Interviewed on the phone by Televisa, she tearfully proclaimed her innocence, saying she did not know what was happening. Those of us following the case were equally mystified. Part of the mystery was her criticism of the Cook. Her mother, who speaks with an Argentine accent, was desolate. Both women inspired sympathy. They were wondering, as we all are, how this "teledrama" would end.

Ronald Hilton - 5/3/00


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