DAILY CATHOLIC    TUESDAY     August 24, 1999     vol. 10, no. 159

NEWS & VIEWS
from a CATHOLIC perspective

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MEXICO BISHOPS REASSERT POPE'S ROLE IN BISHOP SUCCESSION

          MEXICO CITY (CWNews.com) - In a joint public statement, the Mexican bishops' conference and the papal nuncio in Mexico have emphasized that only the Pope has the authority to appoint a diocesan bishop or accept his resignation. The unusual announcement came in response to the news that a controversial bishop had handed over authority to his coadjutor bishop.

          In recent months, Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia of San Cristobal de las Casas had convened several ceremonies at which he has apparently announced that Bishop Raul Vera Lopez is the new bishop of the diocese. These ceremonies were widely interpreted by reporters as a formal transfer of authority. However-- as the nuncio and the head of the episcopal conference emphasized-- Bishop Vera had been appointed only as a coadjutor to Bishop Ruiz, and the Vatican has not yet authorized any transfer of authority.

          In their statement, the papal representative, Archbishop Justo Mullor Garcia, and the president of the bishops' conference, Bishop Luis Morales Reyes, said that the meetings convened by Bishop Ruiz should be seen as welcoming ceremonies, in which the bishop made "mere expressions of respect" for his new coadjutor. They pointed out under the Code of Canon Law, a new bishop cannot take office without express approval from the Pope. And while a coadjutor bishop may have the right to succeed the incumbent bishop of the diocese, the transfer of authority can take place only through a formal act, approved by the Vatican. Until the Pope makes that decision, the statement concludes, Bishop Ruiz remains the bishop in authority in the Chiapas diocese.

          Bishop Ruiz has become the focus of considerable controversy in Chiapas-- the southern region where the San Cristobal diocese is located-- because of his involvement with the Zapatista rebellion there, and his identification with new forms of liberation theology. The appointment of a coadjutor bishop was widely seen as an expression of concern by the Vatican that Bishop Ruiz had become too heavily involved in political and theological controversies.


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August 24, 1999       volume 10, no. 159
NEWS & VIEWS

DAILY CATHOLIC

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