February 10, 2000
volume 11, no. 29
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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.

Faithful Awaiting "New Springtime" in San Cristóbal

    SAN CRISTÓBAL, MEXICO, FEB 9 (ZENIT).- Recent changes in the leadership of Mexican dioceses have put the future of "liberation theology" in question. The movement, largely fueled by European intellectuals, is faltering throughout the Americas, but some enclaves hang onto its doctrines.

    The local Church in San Cristóbal de las Casas, in Chiapas, has been one of the strongest proponents of this theory, which is characterized by a radical option for the poor, often to the point of encouraging violent uprisings. However, with the retirement of Bishop Samuel Ruiz García, the Holy Father has chosen not to permit his Coadjutor Bishop to succeed him, instead transferring Bishop Raúl Vera López to the diocese of Saltillo. Some see this as a sign that this local Church will now move closer to John Paul II's advocacy for the poor, without rhetoric of class struggle and armed revolution.

Failing Policies

    According to the National Catholic Register, Catholics in the diocese of San Cristóbal have been leaving the faith at an alarming rate. One businessman reported that "in some of those towns, about 50% of the population have become Adventists or Jehovah's Witnesses because they feel abandoned by the priests."

    Instead of tending to their flock, stated a Catholic doctor on condition of anonymity, "most of the priests and catechists in the diocese teach the people about the revolution and that they can take from the rich what they themselves don't have, even by violent means."

    The diocese has been so firmly entrenched in its policies that the new movements have not been permitted to enter. Bernardo Cantu of the Cursillos movement stated, "We were not allowed to enter the Diocese of San Cristóbal, because the bishops said that the only thing that works there is their own base communities."

    The Vicar General of the diocese, Fr. Felipe Toussaint, however, claimed that movements are only denied entrance if they refuse to work in "close coordination" with the diocese and the parishes. He added that many of the new movements want to create a "parallel Church."

Tight Control

    Fr. Andrew Lockett, a 76-year-old American priest, reported that Bishop Ruiz suspended his faculties because he did not share the Bishop's doctrinal position. "He just said my faculties would not be returned because I was not willing to change what he called my 'line,' which is that of the Pope and the Church," he stated. He was finally forced to move to a neighboring diocese.

    Another priest, Fr. Luis Beltran Mijangos, said he was suspended "for not supporting the Zapatista guerillas and for providing the sacraments to those humble peasants who oppose the highly ideological pastoral approach of the diocese."

Reaction to New Assignment

    When the news of Bishop Vera's transfer came, many officials within the diocese reacted in anger. Bishop Ruiz asserted, "I will obey, but I am upset and frustrated." He later made a joint statement with Bishop Vera indicating that the Vatican had made its decision based on "serious information gaps."

    The National Catholic Register's article notes, however, that many of the faithful are pleased by the Vatican's decision. "We were absolutely discouraged with the idea of waiting for another 20 years," said Ana María Rivera. "But now we realize that the Holy Father has not forgotten us... We are now expecting a new springtime for the Church in San Cristóbal." ZE00020920


February 10, 2000
volume 11, no. 29

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