ROME—After having remained quiet while Italy debated civil unions for same-sex couples in May, on Sunday Pope Francis expressed support for the Mexican bishops in their efforts to support the “family and life” amid a burgeoning national debate over gay marriage.
“I join willingly the Bishops of Mexico in supporting the efforts of the Church and civil society in favor of the family and of life, which at this time require special pastoral and cultural attention worldwide,” Francis said after the weekly Angelus prayer.
Also talking about Mexico, a country he visited last February, the pope also said he was praying for its violence to end, mentioning that in recent days it has affected even some priests. He was referring to this week’s murder of two priests and the kidnapping of a third, in a country that has long been one of the most dangerous ones in the world for Catholic ministers.
On Saturday, the streets of Mexico City were covered in white, as an estimated 215,000 people dressed in this color and carrying balloons participated in a rally in opposition to President Enrique Pena Nieto’s push to legalize same-sex marriage.
The marchers held banners warning against same-sex marriage and demanding parents’ right to control sex education in schools.
In May, Pena Nieto proposed legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, since it’s currently only legal in some places such as Mexico City, the northern state of Coahuila and Quintana Roo state on the Caribbean coast.
Although many Christian denominations supported the rally, organized by the National Front for the Family, the Catholic Church and the local bishops have been one of the movement’s biggest supporters, inviting people to attend this march and ones organized around the country earlier in September, when almost a million people gathered in parks to “defend the family.”
Among those calling for those in the pews to go to the rally was Bishop Pedro Pablo Elizondo of Cancun, who said recently that he’s “willing to go to prison to defend the family,” should it come to that.
The bishop also warned that the government might accuse those who oppose equal marriage, as it’s being called, of “civil disobedience.”
Pena Nieto’s proposed bill also includes an educational reform, to include “gender education” in schools, something Pope Francis has repeatedly rejected, describing it as a form of “ideological colonization.”
Bishop Pedro Pablo Elizondo of Cancun, Mexico, said recently that he’s “willing to go to prison to defend the family,” should it come to that.
“I think some charitable soul would go to visit me, especially in this year of mercy,” he said. The bishop also warned that the government might accuse those who oppose equal marriage, as it’s being called, of “civil disobedience.”
Elizondo spoke about going to prison because activist Roberto Guzmán, from the pro-LGTB collective Red Positiva, presented an allegation against the bishop to the National Council to Prevent and Eradicate discrimination, charging him with discriminating against gays and lesbians.
The complaint filed also claimed the bishop was opposing article 130 of the Mexican Constitution, which dictates that religious ministers can’t oppose the law nor call the faithful to do so in any public event or religious ceremony.
Also on the table is introducing “gender education” in schools, something Pope Francis has repeatedly rejected, describing it as part of an “ideological colonization.”
Despite his forceful criticism of gender education and having openly defended the Catholic concept of marriage, meaning that it’s between a man and a woman and open to life, the Argentine pontiff has mostly stayed away when particular countries debated gay marriage.
Never was this more evident than when civil union and adoption rights for same-sex couples was debated in Italy, declining to get involved in the debate, saying the pope belongs to everyone and shouldn’t comment on local politics.
During a press conference on his way back from Mexico, Francis was asked about the bill, particularly on the adoption issue, which would have allowed a gay person to adopt his or her partner’s biological child.
The pontiff declined to answer, saying, “the pope doesn’t get mixed up in Italian politics” and that his beliefs match “what the Church thinks.”