San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Vatican Promotes Dialogue In Letter to Tico Bishops

Two weeks after the possibility that the Vatican might weigh in on ongoing debate of free trade in Costa Rica caused a flurry of controversy, a Holy See official sent bishops here a mild missive supporting “serene dialogue” on the issue.

The Tico Times received a copy of the letter Tuesday from the Costa Rican Episcopal Conference. Signed by Vatican City Secretary of State Angelo Sodano, it assures Costa Rican bishops that “I follow attentively the evolution of the society of your beloved country, especially all that has to do with political decisions (with) ethical and moral aspects.”

The letter does not express a Vatican position on free trade or the controversial Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA). President Oscar Arias met with Sodano at the Vatican during his recent tour of Europe, and said afterward that the official had promised to send a letter to Costa Rica’s Catholic leaders in support of free trade.

Upon Arias’ return, discussion began among the President, bishops and CAFTA supporters and critics regarding whether the letter would support free trade in general, or  CAFTA in particular, as well as what the Church’s role should be in decisions of this kind (TT, June 23).

Costa Rican bishops sent a letter to Sodano expressing their intention to foster dialogue and leave the controversial decision up the Legislative Assembly. Arias, in a press conference convened specifically to respond to the bishops’ letter, said he agreed with their comments and that the assembly is the proper place to decide the pact’s fate.

The assembly’s Foreign Affairs Commission is debating the agreement.


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