Thursday, 05 April 2012 12:01
MEXICO CITY (CNS) — The Mexican Senate narrowly approved a constitutional provision providing “freedom of religion,” days after Pope Benedict XVI completed a visit to the country marked by an outpouring of enthusiasm and affection.
The Senate approved changes to Article 24 of the Mexican Constitution March 29, guaranteeing freedom of religion and making it possible to lift restrictions on religious groups to hold services outside of authorized churches without first seeking government permission. Earlier in the day, the Senate approved changes to Article 40 of the constitution by including the word “secular” as one of the descriptions of the Mexican state.
The Mexican bishops’ conference welcomed the changes, saying in a March 29 statement that with the reforms, “Mexico incorporates the highest levels of respect and promotion of human rights.”
Critics of the measures, including some non-Catholic congregations, questioned why amendments were necessary and warned the changes would allow for the religious education and religious groups owning TV and radio stations — two Catholic Church priorities in Mexico.
“In Mexico, there’s religious freedom. What’s limited is priests’ political expressions,” Sen. Pablo Gomez wrote in the newspaper Milenio. Gomez opposed changing Article 24.
The constitutional changes now must be approved by a majority of Mexico’s 31 state governments.
Pope Benedict visited central Mexico March 23-26.