An announcement from Pope Francis declaring that all Catholic priests can continue to forgive women who have had abortions seems to be more symbolic and less canonical—at least in the United States. In an apostolic letter, or a formal decree, this week, Francis called on Catholic priests to continue forgiving women who have abortions after the Year of Mercy ended. “There is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father,” Francis wrote. In New Mexico, a state with a heavily Catholic population, some welcomed the developments. But Catholics and other religious people who support abortion rights said the Church should further reform its stance on abortion rights.
The Archbishop of Santa Fe is sounding the alarm over the tone surrounding the political debate over immigration. Archbishop John Wester made the comments on Monday according to the Associated Press. “I think some of the rhetoric coming out of this campaign is deplorable,” Wester said according to the wire service. “It’s scapegoating and targeting people like the immigrant, the refugee and the poor.” New Mexico is the state in the nation with the largest Latino population; the most recent attempt by the Pew Research Center to see how many Latinos are Catholic put the percentage at 55 percent in 2013 (the number was 67 percent in 2010).
Earlier this year, Pope Francis made a historic trip throughout the United States, including to Washington D.C. where a number of New Mexicans saw the Pope speak on the White House South Lawn. Next year, Pope Francis is scheduled to make another trip even closer to New Mexico—but across a border. He will be visiting the Mexican state of Chihuahua and possibly even the city of Juarez, which borders El Paso, Texas. From the El Paso Times: The head of the Vatican advance team, Alberto Gasparri, was in Juarez on Nov. 4 to identify and evaluate places were the pontiff might visit and celebrate Mass, as well as to assess security and logistics issues, Lamadrid said.
Javier Gonzales is the mayor of Santa Fe and a Catholic. I’ve spent a lot of time this week reflecting and talking about the influence Pope Francis has had on me personally, and what his visit means. My struggle with growing up as a gay man and eventually coming out in a very traditional Catholic family is no secret. And the courage the Pope gave me when he said “Who am I to judge?” played a huge role in that. So as I stood on the South Lawn at the White House and heard the man bring his message of hope and unity to the U.S., it was an incredibly powerful and emotional moment.
New Mexicans were among the thousands to see Pope Francis’ historic visit to Washington D.C. today. The Pope will address Congress on Thursday, but the New Mexico delegation was on hand on Wednesday with guests to see the Pope speak on the White House South Lawn. The Pope addressed climate change, saying it is “a critical moment in history” to address the problem, and referred to himself as “the son of an immigrant family.” Both play into recent American politics, as one might expect from a speech in Washington D.C., but also to common themes of Pope Francis’ time in charge of the Catholic Church. Gov. Susana Martinez traveled to Washington D.C. to see the Pope speak.
[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]CHRIS S. SALAS is a New Mexico Catholic from Albuquerque[/box]
Catholics in New Mexico have long worked to alleviate the suffering of marginalized communities from the effects of poverty and injustice in our state and across the world. Clergy are often advocates for those most vulnerable to inequalities in a society, and people of our faith have always played an integral role in movements for racial justice, worker’s rights, immigrants’ rights and more. Though New Mexicans are facing many obstacles, our challenges are not insurmountable. With the leadership of communities of faith, we can together lift up our families. Catholics in New Mexico have worked for generations to link our faith values to our communities, so I was excited to see the recent appointment of Archbishop John C. Wester, who has a history of being a champion for poor and immigrant communities.