Comunique of the Pastoral Agents of the Diocese of San Cristobal de Las Casas

30 December 1999

"God works in all things for the good of those who love God." (Rom. 8:26)

Today we received in the diocese of San Cristobal de Las Casas notification of the naming of our Coadjutor Bishop Don Raul Vera Lopez as Diocesan Bishop of the sister Diocese of Saltillo.

Without the comfort offered by our Bishops, this disconcerting news would profoundly challenge our faith and our sense of being church, since we feel bruskly interrupted in the process of integration which has been taking place between this portion of the people of God and the person who had been designated by the highest pontiff to succeed our beloved Tatic Don Samuel Ruiz Garcia. For four years Don Raul has shared the difficult Christian walk in these lands racked by conflict and persecution.

This makes us experience our fragility and unites us intimately to the cross of Jesus--to the point that we are assaulted by the temptation to feel abandoned. But the edifying testimony of trust we received today--as always--from our two Bishops leads us to reaffirm our unbreakable communion with the Successor of Peter, and to accept in faith his decision, painful as it is.

The juridical separation of Don Raul, far from breaking the ties of intimate communion created during the years of his presence among us, strengthens a unity which responds with greater amplitude to the catholicity of our Church.

Impelled by the Spirit which convoked Vatican Council II, and which continues to speak to us through the pontifical magisterium, and in particular through the Latin American Bishops Conference, we will continue promoting a ministry which responds to the majority-indigenous reality of our Diocese, and one which is open to incarnating itself in the cultures and values of diverse human groups. Along the same lines, we wish to maintain in our work, in our life and in our structures the preferential option for those whom the Gospel proclaims are blessed: the poor.

We know that these options are not shared by those who look down on or simply ignore the indigenous and the poor, thereby provoking conditions that seriously threaten peace. We will only be able to promote peace by means of justice and complete respect for everyone, especially the marginalized of our society, though this may provoke incomprehension, insults and persecution.

We fervently ask God to illumine the Holy Father with the light of his Spirit, that the choice of the worthy successor may respond to the needs of our people, of our church, and of the poor who place so much hope in her as a sign of the complete redemption performed and announced by Jesus Christ.

To our Christian brothers and sister in Saltillo, we want to let you know that you are receiving an exceptional pastor, a radical lover of the truth, whom we have watched, loyal to the Gospel, bring himself close to the pain of our people victimized by the war, with a tenderness reflecting that of the Father. Don Raul fulfilled thoroughly and with great care the task for which he was sent; for point by point he exercised all the faculties he was assigned in the bull of his appointment, and, at the same time, he managed to do this with a profound respect for the person of Don Samuel and the history of the Diocese, achieving a communion of wills with him, with the whole body of pastoral workers and with the people of God on pilgrimage here, bringing us all a testimony of Christian freedom and love for the church, in continuity with the example of Don Samuel.

Here we saw him growing still more and today, with a mix of pride and pain we also send him to his new destination.

We recognize the pastoral work of Don Raul who traveled all paths to arrive at the heart of the people. In four years of intense labor and in continuity with the diocesan process he understood the longings of the poor and did not cease to give warning of the threats and dangers the Diocese is living through.

We want to take advantage of this opportunity to reaffirm our communion with our Bishop Don Samuel, who has given us a testimony of total self-giving, for forty years, in his evangelizing and prophetic mission.

We invite once again people in solidarity with this path of the church that seeks true peace in Chiapas: together let us keep the faith and maintain hope.

San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico


Representing the Pastoral Agents of the Diocese:

P. Felipe Toussaint, Vicar General
Fr. Gonzalo Ituarte O.P., Vicar of Justice and Peace P. Oscar Salinas C.M., Vicar of Ministry Jorge Santiago, Diocesan Delegate
Sr. Constanza Aguilar, Diocesan Delegate P. Alberto Velazquez S.J., Diocesan Delegate P. Javier Ruiz-Velasco, Diocesan Delegate Sr. Migdalia A. Perez O.P., Chancellor



>From the Mexican daily Cronica de Hoy, January 3, 2000

The Bishop of Ecatepec, Onesimo Cepeda, one of the possible candidates to replace Samuel Ruiz in the Diocese of San Cristobal de Las Casas, does not have an appreciation for the evangelizing work which is under way in this region of Chiapas, according to the Diocesan Vicar for Justice and Peace, Gonzalo ItuarteÖ.

Marina Patricia Jimenez, Director of the Fray Bartolome de Las Casas Human Rights Center ("Frayba"), announced that [outgoing Co-Adjutor Bishop and] recently named Bishop of Saltillo, Coahuila, Raul Vera, will continue to be a member of the Steering Committee of this agency, which operates under the auspices of the Diocese of San Cristobal de Las Casas. By phone, the human rights defender stated that "if the Vatican makes the decision to name a rightist or someone who is not in agreement with human rights work, this would open the way for any type of action to be taken against us." Jimenez said that the relocation of Raul Vera "puts security in Chiapas at risk and heightens the current climate of intimidation. This concerns us because it accentuates possibilities of other kinds of violent actions."

The Director of Frayba added that "we hope that the Vatican and the Pope reach an adequate decision with the person who will come, to the end that greater violence is not made more likely."

Ituarte noted that the replacement of Raul Vera was a solution the government looked on favorably. Regarding Onecimo Cepeda, who has been named, among others, as a possible replacement of Samuel Ruiz, "he has been very public in his political positions and in his rejection of the Diocese of San Cristobal. He is not a viable candidate, and I don't think he would be interested in coming to these lands, besides not having an appreciation for this kind of work," said Ituarte.



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