October 18, 2001

Pope grants Fox and wife private audience

VATICAN CITY (AP) --Pope John Paul II granted both Mexican President
Vicente Fox and his new wife, divorced Roman Catholics, private audiences on

The pontiff met with Fox for an unusually long time, 27 minutes, then received his
wife, Martha Sahagun, for 20 minutes. Sahagun refused to say if she had discussed
an annulment with the pontiff.

"This is a private thing," she said.

Sahagun's audience was arranged at the last minute by the Vatican.

Fox and Sahagun have reportedly asked the Vatican, which handles such requests
for heads of state, to annul their previous marriages. The Vatican has refused to
confirm the reports.

Their marriage was publicly criticized by a Roman Catholic cardinal in Mexico, who
said they were living in sin.

There were also questions about its legality, because the justice of the peace who
performed the ceremony at the presidential residence in Mexico City on July 2 was
out of his jurisdiction.

The church does not recognize divorces, and divorced Catholics who remarry are
not permitted to take communion. Fox and Sahagun, who was his spokeswoman,
did not take communion at the first Mass they attended after their surprise marriage.

Fox told reporters Thursday that he and the pontiff had discussed international
affairs and relations between the church and Mexico. "There is satisfaction on both
sides and a desire to increase and strengthen them," he said.

Sahagun said the pontiff was "very loving, very cordial" and spoke with concern
about Mexico's poor.

Fox also met with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Thursday, the final day
of his visit.

Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.