April 3, 2000
volume 11, no. 66
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NEWS & VIEWS     Acknowledgments
Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

Bishop Felipe Arizmendi Resigns as CELAM's Secretary

    ROME/SAN CRISTÓBAL DE LAS CASAS, APR 2 ( "Bishop Felipe Arizmendi's appointment has given new hope to Chiapas, as he is very familiar with the situation in the diocese of San Cristóbal, and has been exposed to the problem of the refugees," Fernando Molina, an expert in Latin American affairs, said on Vatican Radio. Bishop Arizmendi is replacing Bishop Samuel Ruiz who headed this diocese for 40 years but has now retired due to advanced age.

Bishop Ruiz's Reaction

    Bishop Samuel Ruiz was delighted with the Pope's appointment of Bishop Felipe Arizmendi to head the diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas, because he considers his successor to be thoroughly familiar with the problems of the area. "We cannot hide our joy in communicating this news to the diocese. We already see the beginning of the fulfillment of the promising words that no steps would be taken that would not spell a commitment to peace and the continuation of pastoral activity already underway in the Indian communities, as expressed in the latest statements of the Holy See."

    Bishop Ruiz exhorts "all pastoral agents and faithful to give a warm welcome to the new Bishop of our diocese. The generosity he has demonstrated in accepting the Roman Pontiff's appointment speaks volumes for his spirit of service, his love for the One and Triune God, and his fidelity to the Church; all of which he will live in particular Church, marked in a special way by the force of the Spirit of God.

Statements by San Cristóbal's New Bishop

    For his part, Bishop Arizmendi, 59, announced shortly after the publication of his appointment that he was resigning his post as secretary general of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM). He acknowledged that it would be impossible to carry out both of these tasks, which entail so much responsibility.

    He also gave a significant testimony of the manner in which he received this new undertaking from the Pope. "The Holy Father John Paul II, Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth, successor of Peter, asked me if I was prepared to leave the diocese of Tapachula and go to San Cristóbal de las Casas to replace Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia. My response was that, as a Christian, and as a priest and Bishop, I discover God's will in the decisions of my legitimate superiors and, therefore, I accept the request made of me. I have consecrated my life to the Lord and his Church; I do not belong to myself. My whole being, my talents and limitations, I owe to the Lord and the Church; therefore, I am ready to go wherever I am told."

    "I am aware that I am not going to San Cristóbal de las Casas either to compete or to destroy, but to complement [what has been done.] I appreciate the outstanding dedication of the 40 episcopal years of Bishop Samuel Ruiz García, and the 4 of [Coadjutor] Bishop Raul Vera López, as well as that of their generous collaborators in the pastoral care of this important individual Church. The Holy Spirit gives each one different gifts and charisms for the good of the community, but the Lord, whom we serve, is the same; the Church for which we spend our life is the same; the Kingdom of God for which we struggle is the same. Each one contributes what he has, what he knows, and what he can, but we are united by an identical faith, the same hope and only one charity," explained the new Bishop. "Although we are different, we are united."

    "I have always trusted God, and have full confidence in the Church. I have never felt disappointed, because the eyes of faith allow me to see beyond the immediate. Therefore, in the midst of the normal concern that this change implies, I have the certainty that my life is in the Lord's hands, and that he will give me the necessary graces," continued Bishop Arizmendi.

Joy in Mexican Episcopate

    In a statement, Bishop Luis Morales Reyes and Bishop Abelardo Alvarado Alcantara, president and secretary, respectively, of the Mexican Episcopal Conference, express the joy the appointment has caused in the country.

    Since January 1, 1994, San Cristóbal de las Casas and neighboring localities have been enduring an armed conflict caused by the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, which rose in armed protest against the enforcement of the North American Free Trade Agreement (TLC-NAFTA) between Mexico, the United States, and Canada. Of the over 3 million inhabitants of Chiapas, 1 million belong to two Maya ethnic groups: the Tzotzil and the Tzetzal. Six years later, these civilian populations of Chiapas (which means "Battle Hill" in the Tapetchia language) are the great losers, and their situation has worsened.

    Matters are currently in a state of suspense, awaiting the outcome of the forthcoming presidential elections, which will be held in July. Militarily, the situation is described as a "lowering of intensity." ZE00040203


April 3, 2000
volume 11, no. 66

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