DAILY CATHOLIC TUESDAY April 27, 1999 vol. 10, no. 82
NEWS & VIEWS
THOUSANDS ATTEND MEMORIAL MASS FOR SLAIN BISHOP AFTER POPE REQUESTS CLARIFICATION OF GERARDI MURDER CASE
GUATEMALA CITY (CWNews.com) - Tens of thousands of people attended a Mass on Sunday to remember Auxiliary Bishop Juan Gerardi Conedera who was killed a year ago after releasing a human rights report critical of the army and allied paramilitaries during the country's 36-year civil war.
Nineteen bishops from North, Central, and South America concelebrated the Mass in Guatemala City one day before the first anniversary of Bishop Gerardi's murder. Investigators have focused on a priest living with Bishop Gerardi at the time as the primary suspect, although Catholic leaders and human rights group said the connection to the civil war report has been ignored.
Following the Mass, thousands of Guatemalans gathered in a local park to protest the slow progress of the investigation. President Alvaro Arzu issued a statement on Sunday detailing his desire to resolve the case and how he aims to accomplish that resolution. He also urged Guatemalans to resist propaganda by anyone trying to use the murder to prevent reconciliation.
The ZENIT International News Agency reported that On Thursday, April 22, John Paul II received in audience the president of Guatemala, Alvaro Arz˙, , just four days before the first anniversary of the death of Guatemalan Bishop Juan Gerardi, a champion of human rights in that Central American country.
Following his audience with the Pope, president Arz˙ met Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican Secretary of State. According to Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the Holy See's spokesman, during the two meetings there was a review of the process of reconciliation underway in Guatemala, which has the energetic support of the bishops.
A second topic of discussion was the relations between Church and State in Guatemala. The Pope pointed out the urgent need to clarify the murder of Bishop Gerardi. Investigations on the case are virtually paralyzed, reflecting the deficiencies of the judicial system of the country.
On the eve of the president's meeting with the Pope, Archbishop Prospero Penados of Guatemala said the Holy Father receives daily bulletins on events in Guatemala, including the Gerardi case. He is also aware of the macabre threats to the life of Ronalth Ochaeta, who is in charge of the Archdiocese's Office of Human Rights.
In statements to the press, Bishop Rios Montt, Gerardi's successor, said that military intelligence invented the accusations which led to Father Mario Orantes' imprisonment for several months without any proofs whatsoever. "This rumor was launched to derail the investigations ... and prevent the clarification of the crime."
According to Bishop Montt, the most difficult problem in the Gerardi case is the lack of independence of the judges, because they are under the control of a "parallel power."
Archbishop Penados announced that some 50,000 faithful and religious leaders
from all over the world will meet to commemorate the anniversary of Bishop
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NEWS & VIEWS