Pope admits mistakes as Mexico celebrates independence

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MEXICO CITY (AP) – Mexico celebrated a relatively little-known date on Monday marking the 200th anniversary of the independence movement’s victory of 1810-1821.

The commemorations included a message from Pope Francis acknowledging the errors of the Roman Catholic Church in supporting the old order.

Most Mexicans celebrate the anniversary of the start of the battle for independence on September 16, 1810. But in fact, this uprising was largely suppressed by the Spaniards and their local royalist allies, the Mexican elite of the time. . Guerrilla fighters largely led the struggle for independence in the mountains of southern Mexico after 1815.

It wasn’t until a liberal government briefly came to power in Spain in 1820 that the Conservatives and Royalists in Mexico City decided that independence was a better path. They therefore joined forces with the guerrilla fighters and entered the capital on September 27, 200 years ago, thus ending the war.

Much like the victory of independence in the United States, where the new nation was born with a mixture of slave and free states, the strange alliance that freed Mexico from Spain carried the seeds within it. of a conflict that should be resolved in the following decades.

Liberals in Spain in 1820 wanted to limit the power of the king, threatening to remove certain privileges for the clergy and the army enjoyed by the Mexican elites.

This led Agustín de Iturbide and other royalist officers to switch sides and join the rebels they had fought before, and to form the joint army of the “three guarantees” which entered Mexico City in 1821.

The three guarantees, or promises, were independence from Spain, the establishment of the Roman Catholic Church as the only one allowed in Mexico, and the union of former enemies to end the fighting.

What the elites wanted – and continued to fight until the 1860s – was a preservation of the old order, just without interference from liberal reformers in Spain. In fact, Iturbide was appointed Emperor of Newly Independent Mexico and retained that title until the establishment of the Presidency in 1823.

But that left unresolved disputes over the church’s enormous wealth and economic power, and whether Mexico should have a king or not. These conflicts would lead to the Reform Wars in Mexico in the 1850s and the French invasion of the 1860s which set up Emperor Maximilian’s brief reign.

Prior to the confiscation of Church land holdings in Mexico, the clergy controlled much of the land in perpetuity and were exempt from taxes, and conservatives attempted to defend these privileges.

Pope Francis sent a message to the Mexican bishops to mark the occasion, saying that it “necessarily includes a process of purification of memory, that is, of recognizing very painful mistakes made in the past”.

“For this reason, on several occasions my predecessors and I have asked forgiveness for social and personal sins which, by commission or omission, have not contributed to evangelism,” he wrote.

“But we do not evoke the pain of the past for itself, but rather to learn from it and take action to heal the wounds and build an open dialogue that respects differences and build a much desired fraternity, privileging the common welfare over private interests, ”wrote the Pope.

This contrasted with the position of Spain which refused to apologize to Mexico for the brutality, deaths and exploitation of the colonial period.

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