A Pope’s visit to Mexico is an occasion for followers of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who always celebrate the arrival of the Holy Pontiff. But times change, and Benedict XVI isn’t John Paul II.
The German Pope lacks the charisma and journeys of the “Traveling Pope,” who deeply connected with Mexican faithful. What stands out about this papal visit is that it comes at a time of presidential elections and sexual abuse cases by clergy.
In this regard, it is surprising that the Pope won’t meet with abuse victims like he did in other trips abroad. This reluctance is significant, especially when it was shown that Cardinal Ratzinger knew about the numerous complaints against Father Marcial Maciel, founder of Legionaries of Christ. Avoiding this subject in Mexico when he has confronted it in other countries is not a good sign.
Some of Maciel’s victims want to talk to the Pope, but Mexican bishops didn’t want those meetings. This is a serious mistake and a terrible decision for a church that is losing the trust of its faithful because it is not confronting its internal problems sincerely.
The growth of several non-Catholic Christian churches in Mexico reflects that reality.
The Pope’s tour also has political impact, helping the conservative party that governs Mexico by supporting a marriage and family planning agenda that mixes Catholic morals and politics to the detriment of opposing parties.
Indeed, the vision of a conservative church is what unites the current Pope with his predecessor. Times continue to be bad for believers who see Catholic social doctrine as a pillar of the church.
During Pope Benedict’s subsequent visit to Cuba, the political climate will be different than what John Paul II found on the island. Today, the one who is in an awkward position is Cardinal Jaime Ortega. Domestic dissidents have said he is weak and too conciliatory with the government of the Castro brothers.
The celebration of the 400th anniversary of Our Lady of Charity will be a time of unity for people who venerate her image beyond ideology. In fact, Benedict XVI will find greater religious freedom in Cuba than his predecessor experienced during his last visit.
This is Benedict XVI’s second tour of Latin America in his seven years on St. Peter’s Throne. This region is no longer a priority for the Vatican, as it was at one time. Let’s see if this visit by the Supreme Pontiff, beyond being colorful, helps improve the eroded image of the Catholic Church in this part of the world.