Catholic Church closes cathedral indefinitely after protesters storm building during Mass
International Herald Tribune
Mexico City's cathedral was closed Monday after leftist protesters stormed into the world-renowned religious landmark, and church officials said it would not reopen until city authorities can guarantee security.
Dozens of supporters of former leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador entered the building bordering the capital's Zocalo square on Sunday, scuffling with faithful and overturning pews.
The conflict reignited tensions between the church and some members of Mexico's leftist Democratic Revolution Party who accuse Cardinal Norberto Rivera of overstepping Mexican law by intervening in politics, including supporting President Felipe Calderon's election campaign last year.
Archdiocese of Mexico spokesman Hugo Valdemar Romero said there have been 24 similar but smaller incidents since the 2006 election, which Lopez Obrador's followers allege was stolen. Election officials deny the allegation.
"The cathedral will remain closed as a security measure, and a sign of protest against the fact that these people entered, attacked parishioners and profaned a sacred space," Romero said.
Democratic Revolution officials, which dominates Mexico City politics and is the largest opposition party in Congress, insisted they did not instigate the protest.
City officials recently increased security at the cathedral at Rivera's request, and Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard said Monday the city would immediately boost police presence further.
Sen. Rosario Ibarra said Lopez Obrador's followers were angered on Sunday by an extended tolling of the cathedral's bells that drowned out her speech to a rally in the Zocalo.
"Could it be that they don't want the people to hear what I have to say?" Ibarra recalled telling the crowd. "We should check."
Church officials described the bells as a normal call to Mass, but Ibarra said it lasted about 15 minutes.
The disruption delayed Sunday Mass, frightened some parishioners out of the building, forced priests to take refuge in the sacristy and left one elderly parishioner slightly injured, according to Father Ruben Avila, who is in charge of the cathedral.
"The whole cathedral shook with their shouting, and they pushed the parishioners within a few meters (yards) from the door of the sacristy," Avila said in an account posted on the archdiocese's Web site.
Romero said it was the first time the cathedral had closed since 1926, when tensions over Mexico's harsh anti-clerical laws broke out into armed conflict between the government and Catholic rebels with the bloody 1926-29 Cristero War. All churches in the country were closed during the conflict.
Those laws were eased by reforms in 1992 that allowed churches to own property and priests to wear clerical garb in public.
Ebrard said the church had no right to close the cathedral because the historic building was expropriated by the government, along with other church property, in the 1800s.
"This is an act of intolerance because nobody can close a national monument," Ebrard told local media.
Churches in Mexico can now own properties they acquired after the 1992 reforms, but are only allowed to occupy church buildings that existed before that. Romero defended the church's right to close the cathedral.
"The cathedral is state property, but as a religious association we have the right to determine what religious rites are held there," he said. "And because the site was profaned, we can declare the suspension of the rites."
Mexico City at vanguard with gay rights, abortion
Tue Apr 3, 2007 2:53pm EDT
Email | Print |
| Reprints | Single Page | Recommend (-)
[-] Text [+]
U.S. will guide Mexico drug aid cash: Senate leader
Moderate quakes hit western and southern Mexico
Power omelettes kill Mexico’s boozy business lunch
Mexican rancher to clone prize fighting bull
Historic U.S. city set to make Mideast history
powered by Sphere
Featured Broker sponsored link
$0 stock trades. 10 free per month.
By Gunther Hamm
MEXICO CITY, April 3 (Reuters) - A huge, gritty capital with high crime rates and snarling traffic, Mexico City is becoming a vanguard of liberalism in Latin America by backing gay civil unions and seeking to legalize abortion.
The city's leftist-dominated assembly has upset conservatives and the influential Catholic Church with a swing to the left that is challenging stereotypes of macho Mexico.
"People are a little more open. They see us, sometimes they recognize us from the papers, and smile and are really nice," said Rafael Ramirez, who joined his partner Alejandro Diaz in the city's first civil gay union last month.
The capital's Zona Rosa night-life district, home to many gay clubs, erupted with celebrations the day the pair and other homosexual couples took their vows.
City lawmakers are now to vote on April 24 whether to legalize abortion, at the moment allowed only if the mother's life is in danger, she has been raped or the fetus has certain defects.
The assembly, dominated by the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD, is likely to approve of abortion in the first three months of pregnancy.
That would bring Mexico City in line with Cuba, Guyana and Puerto Rico as the only places in Latin America to allow abortion without restriction as to reason, according to the U.S.-based Center for Reproductive Rights.
Leftist deputies also plan to allow euthanasia.
Christian groups have staged protests, blessed by the country's top clergyman, against the abortion plan. Pro-choice demonstrators have picketed in front of the city's main Catholic cathedral.
Mexico City, with a population of over eight million, and Mexico's states have separate laws.
The northern state of Coahuila, on the border with Texas, took the lead in January when it authorized Mexico's first gay civil union involving a lesbian couple.
At the federal level, the country's lone openly gay congressman is pushing a bill to protect transsexuals, including giving them the right to choose the gender written on their birth certificates.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon, a practicing Catholic, accused leftist lawmakers of polarizing Mexico City.
"I would rather see actions that everyone agrees with and not actions on very sensitive topics that divide society," Calderon said last month.
Long proud of a freewheeling arts scene that produced figures like Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, Mexico City has a liberal current going back decades.
But the city's PRD lawmakers have only stepped up their drive to soften social laws since the party's candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador narrowly lost last year's presidential election and claimed vote fraud.
Opponents say the left's defeat nationally has made them more radical in the capital, ruled by a PRD mayor since 1997.
"The PRD in Mexico City is still obsessed with last year's election," said Mariana Gomez, head of Calderon's party in the assembly. "Unfortunately, it is pushing these laws and ignoring Mexico City's main problems."
Traditional Mexican values like family loyalty and religion have slipped in recent years as Mexicans travel abroad more, become richer and are exposed to the media.
"We are definitely in a much more open, much more liberal and above all much more informed society. But of course there is still discrimination," said Victor Hugo Cirigo, left-wing head of Mexico City's assembly.