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Pope Francis Effect? Observers See Shift in Stance of Mexico's Bishops

David Agren - Catholic News Service
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May 6, 2014

Pope Francis holds his weekly general audience at St. Peter's Square in Vatican City. (CNS)

MEXICO CITY — Mexican prelates normally prize cordial and close relations with politicians and refrain from criticizing public policy.

But Mexico’s bishops posed uncomfortable questions for President Enrique Pena Nieto in a May 2 meeting, challenging him on the government’s agenda of structural reforms and sharing the sense of dissatisfaction they hear from many ordinary Mexicans.

“In no way are we trying to not recognize the great efforts and advances that have been taken under your management,” Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega told the president at the bishops’ bi-annual meeting in Cuautitlan Izcalli, near Mexico City.

“We want to pass on what we hear from the people of different social strata, their angst and anguish and — allow me to say — their annoyances. We do so with honesty and a true desire to serve.”

Public questioning of the president is rare given the history of unhappy church-state relations in Mexico. The bishops’ relationship with Pena Nieto had been considered close prior to his taking power Dec. 1, 2012.

Church observers say the status quo is shifting, however: The bishops see their plans of playing a more prominent role in public policy diminished, and Pope Francis, who clashed with presidents while archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, prefers prelates to side with the people instead of the powerful.

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