LEON, Mexico – Mexicans who denounced the sexual abuses committed by Marcial Maciel (1920-2008), founder of the Legion of Christ, asked Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday to acknowledge the church’s responsibility in covering up his case and to announce that “never again” will pederasty be tolerated.
“We don’t plan to boycott the visit, absolutely. What we do want is to ask him from Mexico: Where are you going, Benedict XVI? Do you want to find your charisma once more and the mission of Peter, or is strengthening your papacy and your position as head of state what you want?” former priest Alberto Athie said at a press conference.
He spoke those words in presenting a new book of which he is co-author, “The Voluntad de No Saber” (The Will Not To Know), a 2012 publication of Grijalbo, which offers 212 documents from the secret archives of the Vatican that refer to the sexual abuse of minors and other inappropriate conduct connected with Maciel beginning in 1944.
According to the ex-priest, with Benedict XVI at the head of the church, “he and he alone can chart a new course to resolve this tremendous problem...the holocaust of thousands of boys and girls who were abused in many parts of the world.”
“With this we are not asking him for an anti-Christian act (but rather one that is) at the root of Christian conscience,” Athie said.
On Friday Pope Benedict XVI had commented on other problems – he condemned the wave of organized crime that has battered Mexico in recent years and said Marxist ideology no longer “corresponds to reality” in remarks to reporters while en route to Latin America.
He made those comments on the papal plane that took him Friday from Rome to the central Mexican city of Leon, Guanajuato state, the first stop on his five-day visit to Mexico and Cuba.
The pontiff also spoke in defense of religious freedom and urged Mexicans to strive for peaceful coexistence and to continue the battle against drug trafficking with the church’s help.
Benedict recalled the famous words uttered by his predecessor, John Paul II, in Havana in 1998 – “May Cuba, with all its magnificent potential, open itself up to the world, and may the world open itself up to Cuba” – and said they are still relevant today.
“John Paul II’s visit opened a path of cooperation and constructive dialogue between the church and (the Cuban government). That path is long and requires patience to keep it going, but the church wants to keep cooperating,” he said.
At the same time, the pope stressed the role that the church wants to play in promoting political and social change on the Communist-ruled island.
“Marxist ideology as it was conceived no longer corresponds to reality, and if we can no longer build a society in this way new models must be found with patience and in a constructive way.”
“That process requires patience and decisions and we want to help in a spirit of dialogue to avoid traumas and to help move toward a fraternal and just society.”
Benedict also referred to the drug-related violence plaguing Mexico, where some 50,000 people have been killed in just over five years, saying the Catholic Church has a great responsibility to stir people’s consciences.
“We have to do everything possible against this destructive evil (threatening) humanity and our youth. The first thing is to proclaim God, the judge who loves us and pushes us to rightness and truth and to fight against evil,” he said.
“The Catholic Church must educate consciences, educate in moral responsibility and unmask evil. It also must unmask the idolatry of money that enslaves man and unmask falsehoods, lies and deceit.”
In good health and spirits despite a journey of more than 14 hours, the 84-year-old pope arrived Friday in Leon, the heart of Mexican Catholicism, where he was received by President Felipe Calderon and tens of thousands of people.
According to Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, between 600,000 and 700,000 turned out to greet the pontiff on his ride in the pope mobile from the airport to Colegio Miraflores, where he will reside during his stay in Leon.
“I come as a pilgrim of faith, hope and charity to confirm the faithful in the faith and encourage them to revitalize the sacraments and the coherence of life,” the pope said in his first words to the crowd.
He also urged Mexicans to build a society based on the triumph of love and the dissemination of justice and told them he will pray to God and the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexico’s patron saint, for all those who suffer from resentment and different forms of violence.
Benedict XVI, who Lombardi said is in excellent health, is scheduled to meet Saturday with Calderon in the city of Guanajuato and later greet several thousands of children gathered at that city’s main square.
Following his stay in central Mexico, the pope will fly to Cuba on Monday to visit the cities of Santiago de Cuba and Havana until March 28.
The pope is making his second visit to Latin America – the first was a 2007 trip to Brazil – and his first to Spanish-speaking countries in the region.
Benedict’s visit to Mexico is the sixth papal trip to that country, the world’s second-largest Catholic country, after the five that John Paul II made in 1979, 1990, 1993, 1999 and 2002.