URUGUAYAN LAWMAKERS OK A MOTION ON CHRIST

But Interpretations of It Vary in This Secularized Country

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MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay, DEC. 8, 2000 (Zenit.org).-



The Uruguayan Chamber of Representatives approved a declaration recognizing Jesus Christ "for the values taught for the construction of a just, and tolerant society ... respectful of human rights."

The motion was approved by 41 of the 42 representatives present, from a total of 99 members, following an unprecedented debate on religion and laicism in the General Assembly. The motion was supported by deputies of List 15, the Batlle Forum, the National Party, and the Progressive Meeting-Broad Front (EPFA). Each group tried to give its own spin to the motion.

"We Uruguayans do not speak of Christianity out of resentment, in order to violate laicism," said deputy Jorge Barrera of the Colorado Party said during the debate. "We do not violate it, because religious liberty is liberty of spirits and means respect for the thought of all the citizens of the country."

EPFA representative Guillermo Chifflet supported the motion because, he said, Christ was the first socialist "who opened the way to the development of socialist principles."

Barrera replied to Chifflet, saying: "Christ belongs to all. ... No political return can be gained from something that belongs to all human beings."

Luis Lacalle Pou, of the center-right National Party, supported the motion because "an attempt was made to witness to the importance of Christian values in the conduct of men of God."

Uruguay, which has 3,290 million inhabitants, is one of the most secularized countries of Latin America. The country declared itself non-confessional in 1917. It is regarded as one of the countries with the most liberal and anti-clerical roots, and has one of the most secular bodies of law on the continent. Christmas is still known as "Family Day," Holy Week as "Tourism Week" and Epiphany as "Children´s Day."

According to the Statistical Yearbook of the Church 1998, there are 2.51 million baptized Catholics in Uruguay. But only 7% of them frequent the sacraments. Surveys show Catholics constitute 56.2% of the population, while those with no religion are 38.3%. The remainder includes Protestants (2%), Jews (1.7%) and others (1.1%).