On the 18th of november, supporters of Andres Manuel López Obrador entered Mexico City’s cathedral and disrupted sunday mass. Mexico’s last presidential elections have opposed Andres Manuel López Obrador (abridged AMLO) as the representative of the left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and Felipe Calderon from the right, and eventually resulted in the latter’s contested instauration – who doesn’t remember the images of clashing members of parliament? Ever since, AMLO’s supporters wage vehement opposition.
On this particular sunday, a huge crowd had gathered for a rally on Mexico City’s Zocalo, the cathedral’s adjacent central square. According to several sources, the cathedral’s bells tolled a deafening noise during the speeches of opposition leader Rosario Ibarra, rendering her words unintelligible. As the acoustic bombardment lasted for more than ten minutes, militants of the opposition entered the cathedral and disrupted mass – which was indeed delayed after the protesters overturned one pew.
This incident follows a conflict that has been smoldering for over a year now. While church officials defend themselves by saying the bell’s toll was a normal call to mass, AMLO’s supporters saw it as an ultime provocation by a church that immisces itself continually in politics. In an environment that is characterised by a very strict separation of church and state as the result of a civil war from 1926 to 1929 which opposed Catholic rebels and the state over these regulations, the church has aligned itself with the current right-wing government.
The church hopes to obtain from the government a constitutional reform which would for instance allow religious education in public schools or the control of television channels. Other stones of contention are the recent authorisation of same-sex unions (gay marriage) and the legalisation of abortion in the PRD-controlled city of Mexico which are of course opposed by a conservative church.
While these political stances and the repeated disruptions of PRD meetings on the Zocalo provoked the crowd’s anger, the Mexican church has suffered severe diffamations and a loss of credibility over the last years, due to its involvement in pedophilia scandals. The church is accused of actively protecting priests who molested children, which has lead to popular (but unproved) beliefs about the church organising pedophilic networks.