Pope Benedict XVI is traveling to Mexico to preach the gospel and no government official will ask him to help fight against the drug-related violence besetting the country, Mexico’s ambassador to The Holy See told Efe.
In an interview to discuss the pontiff’s visit to Mexico, Federico Ling Altamirano added that a call by the pope to the public to overcome challenges “can be more effective than any condemnation.”
When asked about what he believes will be the message the pope will bring and if he thinks that Benedict XVI will condemn violence, drug trafficking and corruption, the envoy said that “it’s possible.”
But, he added, it would be very strange to travel so many thousands of kilometers “just” to condemn violence “when he regularly does it in the Wednesday audiences in the Vatican” and on other occasions, since violence is “something that occurs all over the world.”
“The pope is not coming to condemn violence nor to ask (the drug traffickers) for a truce. He’s coming to speak about the gospel,” the envoy said.
Conflict between rival drug cartels and between criminals and the security forces has left roughly 50,000 dead in Mexico over the last five years.
Ling said he was convinced that a call to the Mexican people “to raise their spirits and their hearts to overcome the challenges” can be more effective than any type of condemnation.
With regard to what the papal visit means for Mexico, the diplomat confirmed that this is the occasion on which to reiterate the commitment to the values of Christianity, renew the promise of “ever faithful Mexico” and the relationship with the pope.
Mexicans - he said - will be able to get to know Benedict XVI, “the depth of his message and his goodness.”
About what type of Mexico the pope will encounter, the ambassador emphasized the reduction in the number of Catholics in recent years, although he said that 83 percent of the population continues to be nominally Catholic.
That reduction, he said, is not due “as in Europe” to secularism, but to the lack of priests, a situation that prevents them from being able to provide their services to all the faithful, which in turn opens the doors to “sects occupying that place, ready to capture the most uneasy spirits.”
Ling said that there is one priest for every 10,000 Mexicans, and “that is not enough.”
Asked if he believed that the scandal caused by the founder of the Legion of Christ - Mexican priest Marcial Maciel (1920-2008), who was punished by Benedict for sexually abusing seminarians - had harmed the image of the Mexican Catholic Church, he said that it had caused “some tatters” in areas near the legionnaires, but otherwise no.
Ling said that Mexicans “who always dreamed of a visit by Benedict XVI,” will receive him as they did Pope John Paul II, “very warmly” and they will not hesitate to come whatever distance might be necessary to be able to see him in person.