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Exhibit shows the Vatican's role in ending bloody persecution of Catholics in Mexico

2014-06-15

One of the greatest social upheavals of the 20th Century, nearly one in ten people died during the Mexican Revolution. The result was a new, anticlerical constitution and government. 

The repression of the Catholic Church lead to an armed rebellion known as the "Cristiada.” It's the topic of a small exhibit at the heart of Rome.

FR. AGUSTIN HERNADEZ
Antonianum University (Rome)
"Mexico has this phase which shows the interest of its people to defend their personal and national ideals, which they also find in Christianity.”

These front pages tell the story of this little-known chapter. They span 30 years, starting with events leading to the Revolution. It also describes  the drafting of the new constitution, approved in 1917, which limited the Church's role in society.

FR. AGUSTIN HERNADEZ
Antonianum University (Rome)
"It stripped the Church of all opportunities to carry out its duties, from its pastoral work, to education, to catechesis, which covers basically all ecclesiastic activities.”

In 1926, this crackdown escalated into full out war between the government and rebel groups fighting for religious freedom. An estimated 250,000 people died over the three-year conflict. 

As the newspaper exhibit shows, the Vatican tried to mediate several times, but was not successful. Three years after the fighting started, Pope Pius XI brokered a ceasefire.

FR. AGUSTIN HERNADEZ
Antonianum University (Rome)
"The apostolic delegate, the archbishop of Mexico, the president of Mexico and the Pope reached a deal in 1929. But the deal, as history tells us, did not end the conflict peacefully.” 

Government repression ended in the 1940, with the election of a president who described himself as a practicing Catholic. But full ties with the Church were restored only 20 years ago. 

This episode has also given the Catholic Church in Mexico several saints. In 2000, John Paul II canonized 25 martyrs of the war. Meanwhile, 14 others have been beatified.


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