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 CNS Story:

FAMILIES-OPEN Jan-14-2009 (380 words) With photo. xxxi

Mexican president warns breakdown in family values increases crime

By David Agren
Catholic News Service

MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- The Sixth World Meeting of Families opened Jan. 14 with a warning from the Mexican president that a breakdown in family values is leading to increased social problems and crime.

"Many of those that die in confrontations are young people that are detached from a nuclear family, something that results in an absolute lack of values," President Felipe Calderon told attendees while opening the five-day meeting.

"It's the responsibility of governments to create conditions of security -- economic, social, public, judicial and cultural -- that make the full development of families possible," he said.

Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City echoed those sentiments in his opening remarks.

"Recognizing and helping this institution (the family) is one of the best services that can be offered for the common good and the true development of (people) and societies," he said.

Earlier in the day, at the end of his weekly audience at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI greeted participants in the meeting. The pope will watch the meeting's Jan. 18 closing Mass on television before blessing meeting participants via satellite.

The theme of the meeting is "The Family, Teacher of Human and Christian Values."

The Mexico City gathering comes at a challenging time for Mexican Catholics, who have been trying to play a more influential role in the country's public policy debate in an effort to better protect the traditional family, especially in Mexico City, where the local government has been rapidly liberalizing its laws on abortion, same-sex civil unions and euthanasia.

To gain greater influence, the church has been lobbying for constitutional changes that would allow religious organizations to own radio and TV stations and permit religious teaching in public schools.

Father Hugo Valdemar, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Mexico City, sparked controversy Jan. 12 by suggesting in comments to the newspaper El Universal that a Catholic-focused political party should be considered -- a touchy subject in Mexico, where the separation of church and state has been strictly enforced.

Census data from the federal government shows a decline in the number of traditional families -- those containing a father, mother and children -- from 75 percent of the population in 1980 to 67 percent in 2005.


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