Background


Mexico – A republic in S North America: capital, Mexico City. Missionaries brought Catholicism to Mexico early in the 16th century, in the wake of the Spaniards. First came the Franciscans, then the Dominicans, then the Jesuits. Mexico City, the administrative center for New Spain, was declared a diocese in 1530. The missionaries defended the natives against government exploitation. The secular clergy, resenting intrusion from the religious orders, sided with the government. In turn, the government decreed the missionaries should have ten years to convert the natives, and then turn them over to the diocesan clergy. Close association between the brutal government and the secular clergy induced a negative attitude toward the Church in the lower classes. This attitude was overcome by the appearance of Our Lady of Guadeloupe to the farmer Juan Diego in 1551. In 1821, Mexico declared independence from Spain. Mexico was then governed by a new elite which was secular, materialist, and hostile to the Catholic Church. A new constitution in 1917, imbued with ideas from Socialism and Freemasonry, denied many civil rights to priests, men and women religious, and seminarians. It denied to Christians freedom of education, manifestation, press and political expression. In 1926, despite the fact that 99% of Mexicans were Catholic, the government reformed the penal code, with the intent that not only Catholic institutions, but Catholic culture, should be uprooted. Dozens of Catholics were executed, including priests and nuns, 24 of whom were canonized 21 May 2000.
Since the 1940s, when restrictions ceased to be enforced with rigor, the Church's situation has gradually improved. In 1991 the Church received legal recognition, though certain restrictions continued to be enforced (no freedom of education, manifestation, or use of the media by Churches). In 2000, with the election of a new President, Vincente Fox, and a new party in power, increased religious liberty seemed imminent. Improved relations between Church and State were in evidence July 2002 when the President welcomed John Paul II at Mexico's international airport, kissing his ring, and on the 192nd anniversary of Mexican independence, the following September, when the archbishop primate of Mexico honored the national flag in the courtyard of the metropolitan cathedral.
Even with some defections to Protestantism, Catholics make up 92% of the population of 135 million, making Mexico the second largest Catholic country in the world.

 

Cuba – Republic in Central America: capital, San Jose. Mission work began in 1520, with real growth and organization in the 17th and 18th centuries. The country became independent of Spain in 1838. Twelve years later, Church jurisdiction also became independent. Catholics are 87% of the population.