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Eppur se mueve… or the Primate directive

7 December 2017

It’s official.  Norberto Rivera, Primate of Mexico  is finally going.  He is, to no one’s surprise, being replaced by Carlos Aguilar Retes, Bishop of Tlalnepantla , who only received his red hat 14 months ago.  Aguilar’s surprise elevation was widely seen as a sign of Pope Francis’ dissatisfaction with Rivera’s elitist style and his too-chummy relationship with Carlos Salinas and the political class… what the political left here refers to as the “mafia of power”.

While the new Primate is said to be personally close to Enrique Peña Nieto (he assisted Peña Nieto in untangling the impediments to his second marriage), he doesn’t carry the baggage that Rivera brought in with him when he first came to the Metropolitan Cathedral in 1995.  As Elena Reina reported for El País [Madrid] on Aguilar’s elevation to the Cardinalate:

Aguilar has been an important religious actor in the country. He was president of both the Mexican and Latin American Episcopate. “When he was president of the episcopate his relations with Rivera were very bad. Rivera comes from a crudely triumphalist Church , which wants to aggressively influence public debate, resorting to strong statements and even blackmail. [Aguilar] Retes is more sophisticated in political terms, is not [he and Rivera] are so different ideologically, but that he is more audacious in the use of politics, “says Bernardo Barranco, the Mexican sociologist specializing in religious matters.

It’s impossible not to see the Primate as a political player, especially with a watershed election coming up. While Rivera and the “old guard” churchmen were bending the laws on clerical participation in politics to back conservative and neo-liberal candidates, and it can be expected tha Aguilar’s own politics veers towards the rights, he is known as a consensus builder, which would be to the Church’s advantage in a time of social and political transformation. As de facto head of the Mexican Church, his elevation to the Metropolitan Archdiocese signals Rome’s support for a more pluralistic and flexible Church, responsive to the people and not the elites… but one more willing to engage in the political and social arena.

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