MEXICO CITY, MAR. 21, 2001 (Zenit.org).- The Mexican government seeks a relation of cooperation with the Catholic Church, because "society is lacking many values," President Vicente Fox said when he received the new Vatican ambassador to the country.
The meeting took place in the presidential residence of Los Pinos, during which the new apostolic nuncio, Italian Archbishop Giuseppe Bertello, presented his credentials to Fox, the first Mexican president in 70 years who is not a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). PRI legally marginalized the life and activities of religious confessions in the country, especially the Catholic Church.
"We are pushing for a new culture in the religious issue and in relations with churches, Fox told the archbishop. "We fell into extremes in the past; we want [our relation] to be far more natural and open, free, and without deceit."
Mexico, the second largest country in terms of number of Catholics (close to 90 million), deprived the Church of any juridical recognition for almost the whole of the 20th century. The Vatican and Mexico re-established diplomatic relations in 1992, after a 125-year break.
Church-state agreements included juridical recognition of religious liberty for all faiths in the country. The Catholic Church, however, is still restricted from using radio and television, and from teaching religion in public schools.
President Fox said his government will promote the work of the churches, especially their social work. Specifically, the president said he believes that the Catholic Church can assume "many tasks that the state does not do well." In particular, he referred to education, and human and economic development.
The president acknowledged that the Church has been a decisive element in the country's stability and "a factor of balance in the exercise of power, which at times has been excessive in Mexico."