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Mexico’s new cardinal is a friend to indigenous people, but hostile to gay rights

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Cardinal Felipe Arizmendi. Photo: Agencies

The Pope’s choice to lead the Catholic church in Mexico is a staunch supporter of indigenous communities and impoverished migrants. But Cardinal Felipe Arizmendi is not generally considered a progressive figure.

As a bishop, Arizmendi railed against “loose morals” and the spread of “homosexualism” and “debauchery.” He has protested court rulings allowing same-sex adoption and marriage in Mexico. He connected the church’s pedophilia scandals with an over-sexed society that allows a free flow of pornography.

Arizmendi was among the new cardinals formally installed by Pope Francis on Saturday.

The bishop emeritus of San Cristóbal de las Casas was born in 1940 in the State of Mexico, and ordained as a priest in 1963. He was bishop of Tapachula from 1991 to 2000 and priest in the Archdiocese of Toluca from his ordination in 1963 until his episcopal appointment.

Now 80, has spent decades ministering to the mostly poor, indigenous communities near the Guatemala border. His time in Chiapas coincided with the launch of the indigenous uprising led by the Zapatista National Liberation Army, which had issued a declaration of war against the government citing a long history of oppression.

In the years since, Arizmendi has lauded the Zapatista movement’s demands for justice, in addition to his embrace of Central American migrants who have for years traveled through southern Mexico on their way to the United States.

He is also just past the cutoff age to vote in future papal conclaves, where new popes are elected.

Other cardinals installed on Saturday come from places such as Rwanda and Brunei as Pope Francis continues to remake a more inclusive church leadership with more prelates from outside Europe.

The most high-profile new cardinal is Wilton Gregory, the 72-year-old archbishop of Washington D.C. and the first-ever Black candidate to be selected.

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