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Pope's offensive phrase generates controversy between Mexico and the Vatican

2015-02-25

A private e-mail between Pope Francis and a friend has sparked diplomatic wrangling between Mexico and the Holy See.

When he was cardinal of Buenos Aires, the Pope supported the Alameda Foundation. Led by his friend Gustavo Vera, it fights against slave labor and human trafficking.

The Pope wrote an e-mail to Vera on February 21, remembering their time to together.

"Dear Brother:

Thanks for your email. I see you are working as hard as you can. I often ask God to protect you and your coworkers. I hope that we will be able to avoid Mexicanization before it's too late. I talked to some Mexican bishops and it is terrifying."

The recipient published the message on his foundation's website, and it immediately caused a serious problem. It wasn't resolved when he added that the Pope expressed concern for the spread of the drug cartels.

The government of Mexico asked the Vatican on Monday to formally clarify what the Pope meant.

MARIANO PALACIOS ALCOCER
Mexico's Ambassador to the Vatican
"... by the order of the Government of Mexico, this embassy presented a verbal note to the Secretary of State."

A response came in less than 24 hours. First, Antoine Camilleri, the number two Vatican foreign minister, summoned the ambassador to give an official explanation.

MARIANO PALACIOS ALCOCER
Mexico's Ambassador to the Vatican
"We talked about the context in which the note was written. He explained to us that it was a personal correspondence. He told me it was a private and informal e-mail".

The Vatican then published a note by the Secretariat of State. It was sent in four languages. The statement clarifies that:

"The Pope did not in any way intend to hurt the feelings of the Mexican people.  He nurtures a special affection for them. He does not underestimate the government's commitment to the fight against drug trafficking."

It says that, "the Pope intended nothing else but to comment on the gravity of the phenomenon of drug trafficking afflicting Mexico and other Latin American countries.”

MARIANO PALACIOS ALCOCER
Mexico's Ambassador to the Vatican
"Well, I can say that it was a timely response, a response that showed closeness to the people and government of Mexico."

The situation was resolved diplomatically. However, someone receiving a private communication from the Pope may now think twice before publishing it.


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