Mexico's Roman Catholic Church is calling on the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto to make changes to its strategies for dealing with the crisis of violence and impunity that is shaking the country.
Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera told reporters on Sunday that such changes "are absolutely necessary" and he emphasized that Pope Francisco is monitoring events in Mexico with concern, and not just the disappearance of 43 students from a rural teachers college in southern Guerrero state.
Mexican church leaders will meet with relatives of the missing students in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero on Monday and will celebrate a Mass, according to church officials.
The case of the missing students has stoked outrage across Mexico and elsewhere because the students disappeared at the hands of a corrupt local government in September and federal authorities took 10 days to intervene. Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets.
Peña Nieto has been under growing pressure from protesters since the group of trainee teachers were abducted by corrupt police and handed over to a local drug gang on Sept. 26. The case has put a spotlight on Mexico's struggle to end corruption amid a drug war that has left 100,000 people dead or missing since 2006.
Carrera said Peña Nieto "will have to know how to confront this, with the same or different people," adding that changes in strategies and attitudes are needed.
The cardinal said impunity has allowed violence to grow in Mexico and that it is "very understandable" that civil society is demanding justice.
He noted that besides the missing students, there are more than 20,000 people across Mexico who have disappeared.
Meanwhile, Mexico's Catholic Multimedia Center released a report Sunday saying Mexico is the most dangerous country in Latin America for priests. The report said that since Peña Nieto took office, in December 2012, eight priests have been killed and that two more have been missing since 2013. It said there have been 520 threats, many death threats, and 1,520 cases of extortion against religious workers.
Al Jazeera and The Associated Press