Sun, Nov 25, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Landmark cathedral reopens its doors in Mexico City


Church officials said Mexico City's world-renowned cathedral reopened yesterday, six days after more than 100 protesters barged into the cavernous building and interrupted Sunday Mass.

A new city plan to guarantee the cathedral's security persuaded church leaders to reopen the religious landmark, the Archdiocese of Mexico said in a statement.

"We trust that there won't be any more acts that put people at risk and desecrate the sacred grounds of the metropolitan cathedral," it said.

Protesters burst into the building on Nov. 18, angry that its bells seemed to toll longer than normal, drowning out a speech at a rally outside in favor of former leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Roman Catholic officials said the call to Mass was routine and not designed to interrupt the rally. Rivera closed the building to the public for "security" reasons, they said.

But the Latin American Episcopal Council questioned the closure, calling the Archdiocese's pretext for the shutdown "totally absurd."

In a letter released on Friday, the council called on Cardinal Norberto Rivera to reopen the cathedral so that "Mexico's faithful can use it."

Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard on Monday promised to assign a special police unit to the cathedral and install security cameras around and inside the building.

Ebrard had increased security at Rivera's request weeks ago, after several smaller political protests were held inside the cathedral building.

But Sunday's demonstrators blew past police officers, startling churchgoers and overturning pews as Lopez Obrador's rally continued outside on the country's largest square.

Lopez Obrador claims that Mexican President Felipe Calderon robbed him of last year's narrowly won presidential election and his backers are wary of the church's strong ties with Calderon's conservative National Action Party.

This week marked the first time the cathedral had been closed since 1926, when tensions over Mexico's harsh anti-clerical laws broke into armed conflict between the government and Catholic rebels in the bloody, three-year Cristero War.

All Mexican churches were closed during that conflict.

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