Updated 08:28 AM EDT, Mon, Sep 16, 2019

Catholic Church in Mexico Expedites First Lady Angelica Rivera's Annullment Prior to Pope Francis' Visit

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President Enrique Pena Nieto's popularity has taken a downward spiral over the past few years. Mexicans have regarded his efforts to maintain peace and order in the country to be particularly foolish following the recent events of drug cartel violence in the country. Now, the Mexican Catholic Church has come under fire for allegedly favoring Pena Nieto and the First Lady's annulment proceedings.

Mexico is predominantly Catholic. Pena Nieto's first wife was Mónica Pretelini Sáenz, but she passed away in 2007 leaving him with their three children. Pena Nieto would later remarry Angelica Rivera, a telenovela actress. While their romance was fodder for many local tabloids and celebrity magazines, Rivera was married to Jose Alberto Castro.

While the Catholic Church frowns upon divorce, it was reported by The Guardian that the Mexican archdiocese had annulled Rivera's marriage in 2009, citing that the wedding took place at a resort in Acapulco as opposed to in a church. Reporters say that they now have proof showing that the Mexican church did what they could to expedite Rivera's annulment proceedings prior to Pope Francis' visit to Mexico.

Rivera has become a controversial figure with Mexico, mostly being known for her love of exclusive designer outfits and exotic trips to far-off destinations. She and the president are also currently embroiled in corruption scandal where she had purchased a $ 7M mansion that she had bought from a firm which had a lucrative contract from Pena Nieto and Rivera, The Daily Mail reported.

According to the investigative reports, the church documents show proof that the Mexican archdiocese's initial claims that Rivera and Castro's marriage in Acapulco was not enough to have the marriage annulled. Annulments are allowed in the Catholic Church, however, the proceedings would take a substantial amount of time and the costs often become exorbitant to the point that many couples who want to file for an annulment back away due to the costs.

Pope Francis has started efforts to make annulments more accessible to everyone, having appeals judged by local churches instead of by the Vatican.

However, the investigative reports insist that the Mexican Catholic Church bent its rules in order to expedite Rivera's annulment proceedings, saying that ordinary citizens in the country wouldn't have access to annulment as most of them don't have the cash or the connections.

A copy of Castro and Rivera's marriage contract also showed that the church wedding in Mexico in 2004 took place before the Acapulco wedding. However, the Mexican archdiocese denied any claims of irregularities from within the church. Father Hugo Valdemar, the spokesman for the archdiocese, also said that the Church made sure to follow the correct procedures in annulling the marriage. The church also denies any political involvement on their part.

Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Mexico where he will touch on sensitive topics, such as corruption and inequality. Pope Francis will also touch on the recent string of violent events in Mexico, per Buenos Aires Herald. Mexicans are speculating that Pena Nieto wants to maintain a clean image prior to the Pope's visit to the country. 

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