Pope Francis Claims Drug War Violence is the Devil 'Punishing' Mexico
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Pope Francis, who has been gaining popularity across the globe with his liberal values, has sparked outrage in Mexico after expressing his opinions on the drug war.
The Pope first ruffled feathers with an email he wrote to a lawmaker about the impact of the drug war in his home country, Argentina. "I hope we are in time to stop Mexicanization," he reportedly wrote in February, about the rise in violence. "I was talking to Mexican bishops, and it is a question of terror."
When the email went public, Mexican Foreign Secretary Jose Antonio Meade sent a letter to the Vatican in response, complaining that the pope’s comments were "stigmatizing" Mexico. "We express our sadness and concern regarding the comments apparently made in a letter from Pope Francis," Meade said in a news conference.
Pope Francis then added fuel to the fire during an interview with a major Mexican TV network in March, in which he claimed that the drug war violence was the devil “punishing” Mexicans for being devoted Catholics.
"I think that the devil is punishing Mexico with great fury," he said. "The devil does not forgive Mexico because she (the Virgin Mary) showed her son there. That is my interpretation."
His comments have led to debate and outrage throughout the country, which is home to 120 million Catholics, the world's second-biggest Catholic population.
"Evil exists, without doubt, and its representation is Satan, the devil," wrote Raul Rodriguez wrote in Mexican newspaper El Grafico. "But in this case, it is necessary to point the finger at corruption, criminals infiltrating the government, poverty, hunger, ideological confrontation and inequality as some of the causes of the explosion (of violence)."
Others have defended the pope’s comments, saying they have been misinterpreted. "You have to analyze these messages carefully. He uses a lot of symbolic language," said Elio Masferrer, president of the Latin American Religious Studies Association. "Mexicans are mixed in their feelings about this. While some may be offended, others agree with what Pope Francis says."
Masferrer pointed out that Francis, who has been lauded for his support of poor and marginalized people, has supported victims of drug war violence. In December, the Vatican’s envoy in Mexico commemorated the families of a group of missing students in the war-torn state of Guerrero.
"Scripture states clearly that the devil is behind evil acts. This is in line with Catholic thinking, and one shouldn't make a scandal out of it," said Rev. Hugo Valdemar, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Mexico City.
Since 2007, more than 83,000 people have died and thousands more have gone missing as drug cartels battle each other and government forces in Mexico, according to a government count.