By Vatican News staff reporter
“The anniversary you are celebrating invites you to look not only to the past to strengthen the roots, but also to continue living the present and to build the future with joy and hope, reaffirming the values that have constituted you and identify you as a people, wrote Pope Francis in a letter to the president of the Bishops’ Conference of Mexico (CEM), Archbishop Rogelio Cabrera Lopez of Monterrey, on the occasion of 200 years of the declaration of the independence of Mexico, that was marked on Monday.
Strengthening roots and values
In the letter signed on September 16, the Holy Father affirmed that the celebration of independence is “to affirm freedom, which is a gift and a permanent conquest”, which is why he was joining “in the joy of this celebration”. At the same time, he expressed the desire that this special anniversary “be a propitious occasion to strengthen the roots and reaffirm the values that build them as a nation”.
Sins of the past
In his message, the Pope said that “to strengthen the roots it is necessary to re-read the past, taking into account both the lights and the shadows that have shaped the history of the country”. “This retrospective look necessarily includes a process of purification of memory, that is, recognizing the mistakes made in the past, which have been very painful.” “For this reason,” the Argentine Pope wrote, “on various occasions both my predecessors and myself have asked forgiveness for personal and social sins, for all actions or omissions that did not contribute to evangelization.”
Actions against Christian sentiment
The Pope pointed out that we cannot also “ignore the actions that, in more recent times, were committed against the Christian religious sentiment of a great part of the Mexican people, which provoked a profound suffering”. At the same time, he stressed that the pains of the past are not evoked to “remain” there, “but to learn from them and to continue taking steps to heal the wounds, to cultivate an open and respectful dialogue between differences, and to build the longed-for fraternity, prioritizing the common good above particular interests, tensions and conflicts”.
Independence, union and religion
For all these reasons, the Supreme Pontiff indicates the way not only to strengthen the roots, but also to continue living the present while building the future with joy and hope, “reaffirming the values that have constituted and identify them as a people”. These are values for which the Mexican nation has fought so hard, and which “many of your ancestors have given their lives”: they are the values of “independence, union and religion”.
The Virgin of Guadalupe
In his letter, the Holy Father also reminded Mexico’s bishops of “another event that will undoubtedly mark a whole journey of faith for the Mexican Church in the coming years”: the celebration, in a decade, of the 500th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who is the patroness of Mexico, the Americas and the Philippines.
In conclusion, the Holy Father recalled that the Virgin of Guadalupe, popularly invoked as the Morenita, revealed herself in a particular way to the smallest and neediest and encouraged brotherhood and freedom, reconciliation and the inculturation of the Christian message, not only in Mexico but in all the Americas.
“May she continue to be for all of you the sure guide that leads you to communion and to full life in her Son Jesus Christ,” the Pope concluded.
Mexico’s War of Independence
Most Mexicans celebrate the anniversary of the start of the War of Independence, Sept. 16, 1810, which was quashed to a great extent by the Spanish and their local royalist allies, Mexico’s elite at the time. However, guerrilla fighters continued their struggle in southern Mexico after 1815. In 1820, when a liberal government came to power in Spain, Mexico’s conservatives and royalists decided to push for independence. They joined forces with the guerrilla fighters and rode into the capital on Sept. 27, 1821, essentially ending Mexico’s War of Independence.