El Papa visita su fortaleza bajo asedio

Por: David Adams
Enviado del Diario Británico The Times

"Cuando el Papa canonize a Juan Diego habrá elevado a nivel de santidad al heroe de una obra de ficción religiosa", dice experto en historia mexicana de la Universidad de Cambridge.

THE Pope was to due to arrive in Mexico City last night for a strategic visit to one of Latin America’s Roman Catholic strongholds — but a stronghold under siege from Protestants who are fast winning converts.

That may explain why the Pope has chosen this moment to canonise the region’s first indigenous saint, Juan Diego. Diego is credited with seeing visions of the Virgin Mary in 1531, when she appeared to him with dark skin and speaking his Nahuatl language.

The Pope’s three-day visit is expected to draw eight million people on to the streets of the capital. Many see the visit as an act of farewell.

The Pope will also beatify two indigenous town leaders from the state of Oaxaca who were martyred for their faith.

On a short stopover in Guatemala City yesterday the Pope beatified a Spanish missionary noted for his work among that country’s indigenous peoples.

The Pope’s mission this time is greatly aided by recent political change in Mexico. Since his last visit in 1999, the anti-clerical Institutional Revolutionary Party, which kept Church and State strictly apart during its 71-year rule, has been replaced by the proCatholic National Action Party headed by President Fox, a conservative Catholic.

With an estimated 87 million Catholics out of a population of about 100 million, Mexico is one of the most devout Catholic nations in the world. But the inroads by Protestant evangelical sects among the country’s 11 million indigenous inhabitants is a cause of concern among Church leaders. The number of Mexicans who call themselves Catholics has dropped in the past decade by about three million.

Despite strong support for Juan Diego’s canonisation among local Catholics, some have complained that today’s ceremony has been turned into a political show. Local politicians are accused of hogging the guestlist, while indigenous leaders have been ignored.

Religious and indigenous scholars have also questioned the existence of Diego, saying that the Church’s official version is not supported by documentary evidence. "When the Pope canonises Juan Diego, he will have elevated to sainthood the hero of a religious work of fiction," David Brading, a Cambridge University expert on Mexican history, said.

Even devotees of Diego dispute his origins, with some saying that he was a poor Indian peasant and others the grandson of an Aztec noble. An interview with the man given the task in 1947 of restoring Diego’s cloak, on which an image of the Virgin appeared, revealed this week that the image was not a miracle. Instead, he said, it had been painted on. Even so, a recent poll found that 66 per cent of Mexicans believed in his existence and 63 per cent supported his canonisation. Support for Our Lady of Guadalupe, as the image on the cloak is known, is even greater.

The figure of Diego is a useful political tool for both the Vatican and the Mexican Government, according to Jan de Vos, a Belgian expert on Mexican indigenous history. "It suits them for the indigenous people to have Juan Diego as a submissive saint, obedient to authority," he said.

He stands in great contrast to some of the more rebellious figures in vogue among indigenous groups. In the southern state of Chiapas, Mexico’s largest indigenous region, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation staged a popular uprising in 1994 under the banner of Emiliano Zapata, a peasant leader.

But the Church has baffled many Mexicans by giving Diego a new European look. Critics say that the new style bears a stronger likeness to Hernán Cortés, the Spanish conquistador, than to local indigenous people.


Fuente: The Times
Fecha: 31 de julio de 2002
Sección: World News, edición online.
Por: David Adams in México City
Título Original: Pope visits his stronghold under siege