ROME — Luis Bravo Mena is a former president of Mexico’s ruling National Action Party (PAN) and is the current Mexican ambassador to the Holy See.
He joined the conservative party in 1969 and served in the Chamber of Deputies (1991-1994) and in the Senate (1994-2000). From 1999 to 2005 he chaired PAN and served as vice president of Centrist Democrat International, an association of political parties and groups that subscribe to adhering to Christian Democratic principles.
How sympathetic is the new government of Felipe Calderón to the Catholic Church?
Of course, the government, president Calderón, is not officially close to the Catholic Church. Having a Catholic background, he does have contacts, but he doesn’t have an official preference for the Church. And being a government official, he cannot have any official connections with the Church.
He respects the separation of state and church, but that doesn’t impair him in his contacts with local Church officials. Naturally, he is eager to keep a layman’s view of government issues.
Mexico’s constitution was changed in the early part of the last century to become strongly opposed to the Catholic Church. How much does that constitution still guide church-state relations?
It would be impossible to make a résumé of all church-state relations, but the construction of the modern state begins with the great reforms of the 20th century. The general public in Mexico has now taken a greater interest in the democratic values of the last century.
The reforms of these values led to changes in the constitution in the 1990s, to make it more open to Church affairs, which also led to an open space that recognizes the difference between Church and state matters.
Does this openness mean that the state will listen more to what the Church and the Holy See says?
Concerning international affairs, relations between Mexico and the Holy See are very open. We collaborate on many issues and we have a fluid dialogue on human rights, migration, cooperation between international organizations, peaceful solution of conflicts, and of course the rejection of war. These are some of the principles of the national policies of Mexico which have much convergence with the Holy See.
On internal affairs, the dialogue is also very open. Of course, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has nothing to do with internal affairs, but relations with the Church are very open and fluid.
How much has this issue of migration been raised with the Holy See by Mexico, particularly with regard to the United States and the border problems there?
We are in permanent dialogue with the Holy See on migration matters. We’ve expressed our concerns both to the United States and the Holy See and we maintain a lot of contacts with both parties on this matter.
We are very happy that, for example, the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Refugees, headed by His Eminence Cardinal Renato Martino, recently named a Mexican bishop — Bishop Renato Ascencio León of Ciudad Juárez — a member of this council. So we are sure the Mexican voice will be heard, through that council.
In January, Pope Benedict called for respectful treatment of migrants, saying that migratory flows must be managed with openness and balance, placing the human person at the center of international concerns. He also pointed out that migration is a great human resource. What reflections do you have on his comments?
He expressed that thesis not only during that Sunday address, but also in his message to the diplomatic corps on New Year’s. And it’s a thesis that Mexico supports fully: that it’s not through force and repression that migration is going to be solved.
On the contrary, solutions have to be based on justice and compassion, and governments should work this problem out with that in mind. This thesis was also expressed by President Calderón in his message to the diplomatic corps accredited to Mexico, when he stated that migration must be seen as complementary.
Mexico requires the financial aspect of migration, of course, but also the United States needs jobs that migration provides, so it’s really complementary and that needs to be taken into consideration.
Edward Pentin writes