SANTA FE, Argentina – As fake news continues to spread through social media regarding an “invasion” by the Mexican army of the cathedral of Mexico City, the church felt compelled to release a statement denying a forceful occupation.

“We’ve achieved some agreements [with the authorities],” says the statement released by the cathedral. “The cathedral continues to be open to give glory to God, the National Guard is providing support for us, it’s not the army.”

“As such, we invite everyone to be united in this project of unity, of peace, giving privilege of course, to dialogue, trying to encounter one another through this path of holiness,” says the statement, released in video format by Msgr. Ricardo Valenzuela, the rector of the metropolitan cathedral.

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The cathedral and other churches in Mexico City, including the famous shrine of our Lady of Guadalupe that usually welcomes millions of pilgrims every year, were closed in March as a measure to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In the video Valenzuela noted that the cathedral has since re-opened, and that religious services are being celebrated with the presence of the faithful, with implementation of the proper health and safety protocols.

The fake news of the cathedral being occupied by the army began late last week, when Gilberto Lozano, the leader of the National Front Against AMLO (the common acronym used for Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Mexico’s president), made accusations that the army, the national guard and even foreign paramilitary forces had seized the church located in Mexico City’s historical center.

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This was the second time in a month that the cathedral had to deny allegations that the army had taken over the church building. On Sept. 13, through its Twitter account, the institution had clarified that the Mexican army had closed some of the entrances to the church due to the national celebrations that were to take place in the area Sept. 15 and 16.

The video from the rector of the cathedral was released on Sunday, the same day when the archdiocese called on Mexicans to avoid “needless” confrontation, calling instead for individuals and nations “to have no other objective but to avoid the spiling of blood.”

Through an editorial released in Desde la Fe, the weekly magazine of the Archdiocese of Mexico, the church called on Mexicans to build on reconciliation and justice, not petty fighting.

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“Unfortunately, we continue being witness to useless confrontations among groups of Mexicans who continue to impose their ideas through insults and aggressions to those who think differently,” the archdiocese said.

“It seems that 199 years have not being enough to reach an agreement where dialogue and respect serve as the common base to our national cohabitation,” the editorial said.

As Mexico prepares to celebrate the bicentennial of its independence, to be marked next year, the capital archdiocese said the country could work on overcoming confrontations, and instead promote respect and reconciliation, both within and beyond the national borders.

Mexicans should work so that “among individuals and nations there is no other objective but to avoid the spilling of blood and the sterile accusations and petty fighting; so that we set as objectives honest work, clear justice, opportunities for all, human rights being respected, values being steady, and peace lasting.”

The archdiocese also urged on Mexicans to work for a country that is “truly independent,” where no one is forced to live in an eternal battle of competing powers that ends up leading nowhere.

Warning against “fake” priests

Also this weekend, the Archdiocese of Toluca, not far from Mexico City, warned against the proliferation of fake priests: men who present themselves as Catholic clerics ready to perform the sacraments- from saying Mass to Confirmation- at private homes, as well as celebrating funerals for those who’ve died during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to local news outlet El Sol de Toluca, the archdiocese has detected at least 10 men who’ve been pretending to be priests since the coronavirus crisis began back in March.

As in much of the world, the celebration of the sacraments with the presence of the faithful was suspended during the worst of the crisis, which led to the proliferation of fake priests offering private Masses, confirmations and funerals which, since the men were not ordained, are not valid.

The archdiocese of Toluca is not the first Mexican diocese to have to warn the faithful against these fake priests in these months.

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma