Mexico´s Fox Talks Terrorism, Education and Indians with Pope

President Promises to Strengthen Relations with Church

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 18, 2001 ( Mexican President Vicente Fox met John Paul II in private audience today and discussed a wide range of topics, from world tensions to the Church´s role in the second largest Catholic country.

Joaquín Navarro-Valls, director of the Vatican Press Office, said in a statement that the Mexican chief executive, 49, met with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, and his aides, after the papal audience.

At the end of the visit, Fox, the first Mexican president in 70 years to acknowledge openly that he is a Catholic, stressed the need to rediscover spiritual values at this time of fear, caused by the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

He told the press that the Catholic Church in particular offers a decisive contribution “which will be of enormous benefit to our country.”

Fox, who took office last December, ending seven decades of rule by the anti-clerical PRI, said that current relations with the Vatican are “extraordinary,” and that his government hopes to “increase and strengthen them.”

Of his 27-minute meeting with the Pope, the Mexican president said they spoke about the Indians in Mexico; employment, “which was of great interest to him”; and daily relations with the Church, particularly in the area of education.

Mexico, which is 90% Catholic and numerically the largest Catholic nation after Brazil, continues to prohibit the teaching of religion in educational programs. It is a legacy of the early 20th-century constitution, which has clear Masonic influences.

Regarding terrorism, Fox said the Holy Father listened with great concern. “His Holiness expressed great concern about the world situation, and his hope that the house will be repaired,” Fox said.

Before their farewells, the Mexican leader suggested to the Pope that another exhibition be held in Mexico City of “The Treasures of the Vatican,” first displayed in 1992, to celebrate the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the Vatican and his country. Relations had been severed in 1867.

Fox said it would be a way of celebrating the first decade of new Church-state collaboration.

He also invited the Holy Father to visit Mexico again. John Paul II´s first international trip in 1979 was to Mexico. He returned to that country in 1990, 1993 and 1999.

Following his meeting with the president, John Paul II greeted Marta Sahagun privately. She and Fox were married under civil law a few months ago. Both are divorced. Neither of their previous marriages in the Church has been annulled.

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