Catholic News Service
Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega
Catholic News Service
Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega
MEXICO CITY — The Mexican bishops' conference has elected Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega of Guadalajara as its president, tapping a prelate known for his positive relations with the country's incoming president.

Cardinal Robles was elected Nov. 14 at the bishops' semi-annual meeting, replacing Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes of Tlalnepantla.

His elevation to conference president came less than three weeks before President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto takes office Dec. 1, bringing back the once-staunchly anti-clerical Institutional Revolutionary Party to power after 12 years in opposition.

The party has discarded much of its public disdain for the prelates, and Pena was scheduled to meet with the bishops at their meeting.

But Bernardo Barranco, a columnist on religious affairs and former electoral institute official, said the conference was taking no chances by electing Cardinal Robles. The cardinal served as bishop of Toluca -- capital of Mexico state, where Pena was governor -- and became close with the party clan in which the incoming president cut his political teeth.

"He should get along well with the new administration," Barranco said.

Pena fostered cordial relations with Catholic leaders in during his 2005-2011 term as governor and was even invited to the Vatican in 2009 by the bishops of Mexico state for a pre-Christmas audience with Pope Benedict XVI.

The Archdiocese of Mexico City also annulled the marriage of his then-girlfriend, soap opera star Angelica Rivera, so the pair could marry in a Catholic ceremony.

Church officials acknowledge having good relations with Pena -- he has supported constitutional changes to guarantee religious freedom -- but do not consider their bonds to be especially close.

"The experience in Mexico state has been one of dialogue with the authorities," Bishop Victor Rodriguez Gomez of Valle de Chalco told reporters Nov. 13. "He always has had a relationship of respect, of collaboration, and we have the confidence that we will continue in a relationship like that."

Barranco described Cardinal Robles as having "a biblical formation" and "representing the most conservative wing of the Catholic Church."