Vatican denies pope’s participation in Mexican peace process

Mexican pilgrims in the Vatican
Mexican pilgrims at a weekly papal audience at the Vatican on March 15, 2017

The Vatican has officially denied that Pope Francis is participating in a peace process announced by the incoming Mexican government of President-elect Andrés Manuel LópezObrador.

Loretta Ortiz, the human rights adviser to Mexico’s alternative left president-elect, stirred controversy this week by announcing that Pope Francis had agreed “to participate by video-conference” in planned peace talks.

Ortiz issued her statement following a meeting with several members of the future cabinet of the LópezObrador government, which won the July 1 election and will take office in early December.

However, in a short statement on July 16, Vatican spokesperson, Greg Burke, formally denied this.

“The information that the Holy Father will take part (in the talks) has no foundation,” wrote Burke.

Following the Vatican denial, Ortiz added a “clarification” via her Twitter account, indicating that “to date” the pope had only “informally” made known his desire to support the process.

“We are in the process of implementing the necessary formalities to be able to count on his participation,” she wrote.

In a July 16 letter to Pope Francis bearing the seal of the Mexican nunciature, LópezObrador noted that the central American nation had been undermined “by historic levels of violence.”

“By virtue of the popular mandate I have been given, I will fulfill my election promise to consult victims, citizens, international organizations, civil society, religious leaders and experts to explore all viable alternatives to achieve peace and reconciliation in the country,” LópezObrador said.

Since the Mexican authorities launched an army-led war against drug trafficking and organized crime in 2006, more than 200,000 people in Mexico have been killed.

In his letter, the incoming Mexican president also emphasized the “moral and spiritual qualities” of Pope Francis and his work “for the common good and peace.”

He addressed a “cordial invitation” to the pope “to accompany the listening process at the forums for the pacification of the country and the reconciliation of Mexico.”

LópezObrador has expressed his desire to involve the pope in his peacemaking project for several months now.

A close collaborator, independent activist Carlos Cruz, leader of the civil organization CauceCiudadano, which trains young people and works to distance them from violence, transmitted the request to the Vatican.

Responding to media controversy arising from the statement by Loretta Ortiz, Cruz noted that “at this time, the most important thing in Mexico remains (the search) for peace and the contributions of the pope are fundamental to its accomplishment.”

“The necessary measures will now be taken by formal paths, respecting both the Vatican as an institution and the elected government,” he said.