John Paul II Warns Peru on Loss of Values

Says Democracy Can Slide to Totalitarianism

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 16, 2001 ( Repeating one of the themes of his pontificate, John Paul II today summarized the essence of Peru´s crisis over the last few years: «A democracy without values easily becomes a visible or concealed totalitarianism.»

The Pope analyzed the Peruvian political and institutional crisis, one of the most severe in the country´s history, when he received the credentials of the new Peruvian ambassador to the Vatican, Alberto Montagne Vidal, 61, a career diplomat.

The crisis reached a climax when President Alberto Fujimori resigned, via fax from Japan, last November. The president had been involved in a network of corruption that included members of the State Security, politicians, magistrates, businessmen and the media.

Last September, the media published pictures of Vladimiro Montesinos, Fujimori´s former security adviser, bribing a member of the opposition with money so that he would support the president.

«The political and institutional crisis that your country has experienced over the past months has occasioned serious problems for the nation,» the Pope said. «Now it is necessary to join efforts and put aside partisan plans so that, with everyone´s collaboration, in honesty and good will, an atmosphere of trust, real justice, loyalty, transparency, mutual respect, peace and freedom is fomented.

«In this way, the Peruvian people will be able to surmount the crisis and recover the moral values of a just, equitable, supportive and honest society, fostering a rule of law in which all citizens feel responsible and participate in the edification of the homeland and the realization of the common good.»

However, the «return to democratic normalcy must be inescapably accompanied by the recovery of genuine moral and ethical principles. Indeed, as I have reiterated many times, political life cannot do without respect for truth and values, because a democracy without values easily becomes a visible or concealed totalitarianism, as history demonstrates.»

Given that the economy is of great importance in the life of a democracy, the Pope reminded the Peruvian government that it is urgent to heal «the sore of poverty generated by the heavy foreign and domestic debt, which must be addressed by the protagonists of social life.»

«I have referred to this grave worldwide problem on different occasions,» the Holy Father said, «hoping that the cancellation or at least a significant reduction of the foreign debt on the part of creditor countries, would allow those who are in these circumstances to look at the future with optimism, promote adequate development, and reach desirable levels of well-being.»

Lastly, the Holy Father referred to the peace process under way between Peru and Ecuador, which for years have battled over border issues. Talks have been held thanks largely to the cooperation of bishops´ conferences of both nations.

«Overcoming any temptation to turn back, it is indispensable to go forward in a climate of coexistence proper to countries united by so many values and in keeping with the peaceful tradition of the region,» John Paul II concluded.

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