Mexico City mayor calls church protests ‘unacceptable’

Associated Press

MEXICO CITY – The leftist mayor of Mexico City pledged to step up security at the city’s Roman Catholic cathedral on Wednesday, after the church threatened to cancel Masses there following noisy protests by leftist demonstrators during Sunday services.The possible cancellation of services – which could be extended to other locations – is part of a monthslong dispute in which supporters of the protest movement in Oaxaca and followers of former leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador have demonstrated against church leaders.Mayor Alejandro Encinas, a member of Lopez Obrador’s party, blamed clerics for allegedly making political statements – something they are forbidden by law from doing – saying that had aroused the anger of protesters.”These incursions into the cathedral are unacceptable,” said Encinas, adding, “There is mutual responsibility, both on the part of the clerics and the people who might disagree with the political statements they make.”He said the city had contacted church authorities about plans to provide better security at the cathedral, located in the city’s main square.During the summer, police were posted outside the church after Lopez Obrador’s supporters repeatedly interrupted Masses, sometimes engaging in shoving and shouting matches with parishioners or church security guards.On Sunday, a group of several dozen demonstrators who covered their hands in red paint to simulate blood interrupted a Mass at the cathedral celebrated by Cardinal Norberto Rivera, chanting “assassin” and claiming Rivera had supported police intervention in the conflict.”The intolerance of these radical and violent groups who have attacked Cardinal Rivera, did not achieve its goal of silencing him,” the archdiocese of Mexico said in a news release.”In the case of any new violent incursion, and if the authorities cannot guarantee the safety of parishioners, the Archdiocese of Mexico reserves the right to cancel Masses at the cathedral, and could extend that measure further.”At an impromptu news conference following a recent Sunday Mass, Rivera made relatively vague statements about the need for law and order in Oaxaca, where leftist protesters seized the city for five months until federal police were sent in to restore order last month.The archdiocese claimed Lopez Obrador’s leftist Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD, was behind the protests.In a news conference, PRD spokesman Gerardo Fernandez – who himself has pushed his way into Rivera’s Masses in the past to protest unrelated issues – said some individual PRD members may have been involved in the most recent demonstration.But he said he now considers demonstrations in church to be “a bad idea,” and urged party members not to participate in them.”We once had a tumultuous past in common … but we have made peace,” Fernandez said of his relations with the church.Mexico as a nation has a stormy history in church-state relations, and a long tradition of anticlericalism; the government imposed harsh anti-clerical laws in the 1920s, sparking a bloody revolt by Catholics. Some of those laws were not lifted until 1993.Priests are no longer forbidden from wearing clerical garb in public, but are still prohibited from involvement in politics, though what qualifies as “involvement” remains relatively vague in practice.

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