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New Mexico City archbishop Retes is longtime Pope Francis ally

December 7th, 2017 Posted in International News

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MEXICO CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis picked a longtime ally to lead the world’s largest archdiocese, where many professing the Catholic faith have fallen way from the church and senior clergy have failed to influence many changes in social policy.

Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes of Tlalnepantla was named archbishop of Mexico City Dec. 7. He succeeds Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, who submitted his resignation June 4 upon turning 75, as required by canon law.

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Mexicans respond to quake with generosity, concerns about aid distribution

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Catholic News Service

CUERNAVACA, Mexico — Donations from Caritas chapters across Mexico started streaming into affected areas after an earthquake rocked central Mexico Sept. 19, claiming more than 300 lives, leveling homes and churches and leaving thousands homeless.

Bishop Ramon Castro Castro of Cuernavaca, Mexico, celebrates Mass Sept. 24 outside the city’s cathedral, which dates to the 1500s and was badly damaged by the Sept. 19 earthquake in Mexico. (CNS photo/David Agren)

Some of those donations being trucked into Morelos state, just south of Mexico City, were stopped, however, and diverted to government-run collection centers, said Bishop Ramon Castro Castro of Cuernavaca. He sounded the alarm in a short video — and set off a scandal.

“This surpasses any minimal moral logic,” Bishop Castro said in an online video, which described how three trucks with Caritas supplies were detained, then diverted by police. “I ask those who have the authority and ability to stop this to do so.”

Bishop Castro’s video went viral in Mexico, where people have responded to the earthquake with generosity and rushed to rescue those trapped in rubble, even risking their own lives and working without sleep in the process.

But his comments have come to embody the country’s fatigue with politicians, some of whom have been chased away or jeered by irate locals while visiting disaster areas. Some politicians have put their promotion or logos on supplies or made assistance in poor areas conditional on recipients showing an electoral identification.

Mexico’s Catholic leaders have joined in the condemnation of the country’s political class, while also accompanying a population often distrustful of their authorities and depending on each other in a time of crisis. In a homily Sept. 24, Bishop Castro called for citizen vigilance to avoid corruption and crass politicking.

“I would ask the government to honestly distribute this money, this disaster fund to reconstruct the country and that no percentage of it ends up in anybody’s pocket. That we as citizens observe and denounce any abuse,” Bishop Castro said in a Sept. 24 homily.

“We hope this tragedy serves to humanize our political class,” added an editorial published Sept. 24 in the Archdiocese of Mexico City publication Desde la Fe. “Mexicans are fed up with the excess of politicians and public officials, the corruption, scandalous salaries, benefits and frivolities … politicians’ ostentatiousness, which insults the more 50 million poor people living in our troubled country.”

The magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck central Mexico especially hard, with the epicenter about 45 miles southeast of Mexico City on the border area of Morelos and Puebla states. In Morelos, served by the Diocese of Cuernavaca, at least 73 people died. Some towns reported more than half the homes there damaged or destroyed.

The citizen solidarity and generosity in Morelos has been overshadowed somewhat by concerns state officials and politicians are trying to use the tragedy for political purposes and to promote themselves ahead of the 2018 elections.

To prevent abuse, Caritas Mexico has developed an application that allows people to identify the disaster areas with the greatest needs, but also to track the delivery of donated supplies.

The application, still in its test phase, allowed the Diocese of Cuernavaca to spot a Caritas truck carrying relief supplies from northern Mexico being stopped by state police as it entered Morelos. Caritas officials rushed to the scene so the truck would be allowed to continue to its original destination, said Oscar Cruz, diocesan communications director.

Bishop Castro told Catholic News Service the Morelos government issued a directive to have all aid arriving from out-of-state distributed by state agencies.

“They want to distribute (church aid) because later they put a label on it, ‘Government of Morelos,’” he said. “This is support from many other people, and (labeling it otherwise is) a total lack of honesty.”

The diocese reports 111 parishes were either damaged or destroyed, while 13 parish residences were left uninhabitable, leaving those priests homeless.

“Some of these churches are 400 years old,” Bishop Castro said at the Cuernavaca cathedral, which dates back to the 1500s. The cathedral was undergoing renovations, but suffered such damage that services could no longer be celebrated inside. “These buildings were still standing after previous earthquakes, storms, but didn’t survive this. That tells you how powerful this was.”

The Diocese of Cuernavaca has focused on “accompanying people,” Bishop Castro said, meaning Masses and funerals were celebrated at all parishes, outside of the buildings.

The diocese also established three collection centers, which were swamped with donations and offers of assistance. One of the centers in the diocesan seminary had as many as 800 volunteers working at a time.

“People are showing a lot of solidarity,” said Father Israel Vazquez, seminary director. He said people sent donations to the church because they thought the church would distribute the aid to those most in need.

Some in the state went straight to the disaster areas. Otilia Diaz and four relatives collected clothing and shoes they no longer needed and drove to the town of Jojutla, which was hit especially hard.

“We collected all we could find in the house to give,” she said. “One woman asked us for shoes because her husband only had sandals and was clearing the rubble of their home.”

In a Mass celebrated outdoors for the victims of the earthquake, Bishop Castro called for change after the earthquake and expressed hopes the disaster, with its expressions of solidarity and demands for better from Mexico’s political class, would lead to a better country.

“Concern yourself with your country, a more just and honest society, that there’s justice. Concern yourself with defending the truth,” Bishop Castro said. “You’re leaders in this story. You’re a protagonist in a new Mexico. It’s the opportunity for change.”

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Mexicans pitch in to help after earthquake

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Catholic News Service

MEXICO CITY — Mexican church leaders offered prayers and urged generosity after an earthquake struck the national capital and its environs, claiming more than 240 lives, including at least 20 children trapped in a collapsed school.

Rescue personnel remove rubble Sept. 20 at a collapsed building while searching for survivors after an earthquake hit Mexico City. The magnitude 7.1 earthquake hit Sept. 19 to the southeast of the city, killing hundreds. (CNS photo/Claudia Daut, Reuters)

The U.S. bishops joined them in prayer, asking for the protection of “Our Lady of Guadalupe, comforter of the afflicted and mother most merciful.”

The magnitude 7.1 earthquake Sept. 19 added to the misery of Mexicans who suffered a magnitude 8.1 earthquake 12 days earlier. That quake left nearly 100 dead in the country’s southern states and left thousands more homeless.

“We join the pain and grief of the victims of the earthquake, which occurred today … in various parts of our country,” the Mexican bishops’ conference said in a Sept. 19 statement. “Today, more than ever, we invite the community of God to join in solidarity for our brothers who are suffering various calamities that have struck our country.”

Mexicans have responded to the earthquake with acts of solidarity. The telephone system was overwhelmed and traffic snarled as power outages affected traffic lights. In hard-hit neighborhoods, people poured in, armed with buckets and shovels to help clear rubble from collapsed buildings, where people were trapped. Others were quick to donate food and drink to those assisting.

“Once again we are witnesses to the people of Mexico’s solidarity,” the bishops’ statement said. “Thousands of hands have formed chains of life to rescue, feed or do their small part in the face of these emergencies.”

Caritas chapters across the country opened collection centers to help those harmed by the earthquake. In Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera asked all parishes in the impacted areas, along with priests religious and laity to “collaborate with the authorities in order to assist people that have been affected and show Christian solidarity,” said an article published in archdiocesan newspaper Desde la Fe.

Dioceses in Puebla and Morelos, south of the capital, reported widespread damage to churches. Caritas Mexico, the church’s aid organization, reported at least 42 people dead in Morelos and 13 deaths in Puebla, where a dozen churches also collapsed.

Damage was widespread in parts of Mexico City, where at least 27 buildings collapsed, said President Enrique Pena Nieto.

A private school collapsed in Mexico City, trapping students ranging from kindergarten to junior high school. The Associated Press reported at least 25 students and teachers died, with others remaining unaccounted for.

As often happens in disasters, authorities expected the death toll to rise, because people could have been trapped in buildings when they collapsed.

At his general audience Sept. 20, Pope Francis prayed for victims and rescue personnel, invoking Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of Mexico.

“In this moment of suffering,” he said, “I want to express my closeness and prayers to the entire Mexican population.”

Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City expressed his sympathy to the relatives of those who had lost loved ones in the earthquake. He urged parishes, religious and the lay faithful to work with government authorities to “aid people who have been affected and demonstrate Christian solidarity.”

The quake epicenter was in Puebla, southeast of Mexico City. Earthquakes usually affect Mexico City as much of it is built on a former lake bed and buildings sway in the soft soil, even though the epicenters are in distant states. That phenomenon allows an earthquake warning to sound, giving people approximately a minute to evacuate their buildings. The alarm did not sound Sept. 19, however.

“It totally frightened me,” said Pedro Anaya, a small-business owner.

He decided to help, joining the hundreds of people hauling away debris from a collapsed apartment building in the trendy Condesa neighborhood.

“I saw that my family was OK so I came to help,” he said.

     

Contributing to this story was Barbara Fraser in Lima, Peru.

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Pope Francis tells Colombian officials to pursue peace through social inclusion

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Catholic News Service

BOGOTA, Colombia — Pope Francis urged Colombians to put aside prejudice and pursue peace through social inclusion, fighting inequality and paying attention to the plight of the country’s most marginalized populations, such as campesinos, Afro-Colombians and indigenous peoples. Read more »

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Villavicencio: Colombian city of ‘victims and victimizers’ on pope’s itinerary

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Catholic News Service

VILLAVICENCIO, Colombia — People in need in this city set in the heart of Colombia’s cattle country line up outside the Pope Francis food bank, a warehouse built with a donation from the pontiff.

Father Carlos Ricardo, director of social ministries for the Archdiocese of Villavicencio, says the facility meets a great need in a region where people have been thrown off their land in the violence afflicting Colombia and have had to start over in shanties built around Villavicencio.

Father Carlos Ricardo greets participants Sept. 5 in a program for special-need adults in the Archdiocese of Villavicencio, Colombia. (CNS photo/David Agren)

“It’s a city of settlements, made up of people that had to leave their land due to war,” Father Ricardo said. “Villavicencio is made up of victims and victimizers. They’re both here. There are people displaced that lost their homes, the things that they had. There are also people being reinserted into society from the guerrilla groups and paramilitaries.”

Pope Francis arrives Sept. 6 in Colombia for a five-day visit. Among the four cities he will visit is Villavicencio, where he will celebrate Mass for an estimated 700,000 people, including indigenous Colombians, and will later offer prayers for reconciliation with victims of violence attending from all corners of Colombia.

Promoting reconciliation is a recurring theme in the pope’s trip and a priority among Catholics in Colombia after five decades of armed conflicts and the signing of a peace accord between the government and the main guerrilla group.

Villavicencio, 75 miles southeast of the capital, Bogota, is the gateway to remote regions such as the Amazon, and Pope Francis is also expected to promote reconciliation with creation and speak of environmental issues.

Church officials say the trip to Villavicencio, population 500,000 and growing quickly over the past decade as displaced persons arrived, is heavy on symbolism and meant to send messages on topics important for Colombia and the church as a whole.

Villavicencio “was the heart of the conflict for many years in this region, with many different armed groups,” said Msgr. Hector Fabio Henao, director of Caritas Colombia. It’s a city where Pope Francis “will find victims of the armed conflict.”

“It’s also on the road to the Amazon. The pope can point toward the Amazon, toward its inhabitants, (the) destruction of the jungle over the decades … and make a reference to reconciliation with nature,” he said.

Locals call Villavicencio the gateway to the “Llano,” the plains of Colombia. With an abundance of available land, Father Ricardo says the region attracted the displaced persons from around the country, who had to start over from scratch after losing their properties.

Though close to the capital, Villavicencio is described a bottleneck for those traveling to the southern parts of Colombia. It’s also the place where the “rest of Colombia begins,” vast swaths of rugged and sparsely populated terrain, along with the Amazon region, an area taken advantage of by guerrillas, who used its thick vegetation for cover.

The area has been largely forgotten by the government. Paramilitaries, often paid by palm growers, inflicted violence on vulnerable populations. The Catholic Church has played a role, providing services where the state has been absent.

That work has not always been appreciated by those in positions of power. Priests ministering to populations with unpopular political opinions or areas occupied by guerrilla groups were seen with suspicion or as promoting liberation theology.

“There have been murders of human rights leaders … and priests for defending human rights by the state itself,” said Father Ricardo. “We work with the poor, giving them the word of God, but (elites) thought that we were subversive, that if we were not with them, we were against them … that we’re spreading a revolutionary mentality.”

While in Villavicencio, Pope Francis will beatify two martyrs: Bishop Jesus Emilio Jaramillo Monsalve of Arauca, who was murdered by Marxist guerrillas in 1989 in an area rife with conflict, and Father Pedro Maria Ramirez. The latter was hacked to death by a machete-wielding mob in 1948 after the assassination of presidential candidate Jorge Eliecer Gaitan, whose Liberal Party was often scorned by the Catholic Church.

In this region, the peace accord signed by the federal government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, is still viewed suspiciously by many, including some in the church hierarchy.

Father Ricardo expressed hope the pope’s trip to Villavicencio would “set a single direction” for the church to follow in the attempts to promote peace in Colombia.

Reconciliation will not be easy, but some in Villavicencio appear willing.

“Forgiving is hard,” said Jeydi Gonzalez, a program director with the archdiocesan social ministry in Villavicencio, whose father was among six men murdered by paramilitaries. Making forgiveness harder is that provisions under the peace accords mean one of her father’s killers, four others implicated were killed, will have his sentence cut from 50 years to seven years.

“I feel very happy” the pope is coming to Colombia “but also anxious to know what he is going to say,” said Gonzalez, who credits accompaniment from a priest after her father’s murder for helping her family at a time when others in their village viewed them suspiciously. “They stigmatized us,” she said, because they thought her father had to have been involved with the guerrillas.

The priest’s intervention also provided her with an opportunity to continue studying and earn a master’s degree from a Canadian university.

Gonzalez said she hoped Pope Francis “can help bring home a message that speaks to our reality, the context which Colombia is experiencing.”

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Pope in Colombia to promote healing after decades of war

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Catholic News Service

BOGOTA, Colombia — Pope Francis arrived in Colombia Sept. 6 for a five-day visit to promote reconciliation in a deeply Catholic country scarred and reticent to offer forgiveness after decades of war.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and his wife, Maria Clemencia Rodriguez Munera, welcomed the pope at the airport. Children in traditional costumes presented him with flowers, and the pope greeted members of the Colombian military, including soldiers injured in the line of duty.

Pope Francis accepts gifts from children outside the Apostolic Nunciature in Bogota, Colombia, Sept. 6. The pope plans to visit four Colombian cities during his six-day trip. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

In a gesture to promote the themes of peace and reconciliation, he was given a dove by a boy named Emmanuel, who was born in a guerrilla camp to Colombian politician Clara Rojas, kidnapped in 2002 and released nearly six years later.

With no speeches at the airport, Santos walked Pope Francis to a shiny new popemobile made in Colombia for the occasion. The pope rode 10 miles to the Vatican nunciature in the open-sided vehicle, slowing or completely stopping frequently to greet the hundreds of thousands of people who lined the streets.

At the nunciature, an estimated 2,000 people gathered on the sidewalks, street and on a large makeshift stage to give him a rousing welcome in song and dance.

Each evening of the pope’s visit was to feature different groups meeting the pope outside the nunciature, where he is staying. The first night featured a group of Catholic couples and priests who reach out to families in difficulty and a choir, band and dance troop formed by “at-risk youths,” many of whom had lived on the streets or struggled with drug addiction.

Pope Francis thanked the young people for their happiness, joy and enthusiasm, but especially for the efforts they have made to overcome their pasts. “This is called heroism,” he told them.

The young people gave the pope a “ruana,” a thick wool poncho, which he promptly put on. The organization the youths belong to told the press that the ruana was meant to symbolize both Colombia’s warm embrace of Pope Francis, but also the toil and commitment of the youths who work in the group’s artisan program.

On the 12-hour flight from Rome, Pope Francis told reporters that the trip was “to help Colombia go forward in its journey of peace.”

Expectations for Pope Francis’ visit were running high among Colombian Catholics. It was the first papal trip to Colombia since 1986, when St. John Paul II visited.

Pope Francis arrived after the signing of a peace accord promising to put Colombia on a path of ending more than 50 years of armed conflict. Just days before the visit, the government and the National Liberation Army, a Marxist organization carrying out crimes like kidnapping and bombings, agreed to a four-month cease-fire.

Challenges remain, especially as many Colombians, including Catholics and those of conservative persuasions, object to the idea of demobilized Marxist guerrillas accused of atrocities receiving reduced punishments and even participating in politics. Those persecuted by paramilitaries voice similar misgivings.

“We are expecting that the pope brings a lot of hope,” said Msgr. Hector Fabio Henao, director of Caritas Colombia. “The pope arrives at a time when reconciliation is the greatest challenge. We hope that his message touches the hearts of those who have suffered due to this conflict.”

The papal trip carries the motto: “Let’s take the first step,” purposely chosen to convey a sense of collective involvement in the country’s peace process.

“The motto of the apostolic trip says exactly what we are expecting: Let’s take the first step,” said Auxiliary Bishop Juan Carlos Cardenas Toro of Cali. “This first step by the pope, stepping off the flight to come closer to this nation, which has suffered, is something for us that opens the door to hope.”

The Colombian government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by its Spanish acronym as FARC, reached a peace accord in 2016, in which the FARC agreed to demobilize. The agreement has proved polemical, even though violence perpetrated by guerrilla groups, government soldiers and paramilitaries has left an estimated 220,000 dead and millions more displaced.

Catholics are divided on the peace accord, and Colombian bishops have stayed on the sidelines, while encouraging the laity to voice their opinions. Many conservative Catholics, along with evangelicals, argued the deal included provisions harmful to the traditional family, a charge denied by peace accord proponents; opponents turned out to defeat the deal in a plebiscite.

The accord later was reworked and approved in Congress. People say they want peace, but disagree, often strongly, on how to pursue it

“The church itself reflects the divisions in Colombian society,” said Jesuit Father Mauricio Garcia Duran. “The pope comes to Colombia in a context of polarization.”

The papal visit touches on themes important to the country and church. In the capital, Bogota, Sept. 7, the pope was to celebrate a Mass focused on young people. Up to 1 million people were expected to attend.

The pope was to travel Sept. 8 to Villavicencio, gateway to the at-times neglected southern half of Colombia, where he was to pray with 6,000 victims of violence and was expected to call for reconciliation. That call for reconciliation was to include a call to reconcile with creation; indigenous peoples from the Amazon and lands increasingly exploited by mining and natural resource extraction were invited.

The following day, Pope Francis was to address clergy and religious in the city of Medellin. He also was scheduled to visit a Catholic orphanage.

Pope Francis was to end his visit to Colombia on the Caribbean coast in the city of Cartagena. There he was expected to address the church’s controversial role in the slave trade.

He also was to recite the Angelus at a shrine to St. Peter Claver, a Jesuit who worked to stop slavery.

     

Contributing to this story was Cindy Wooden in Bogota.  

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Feminist anarchist group says it detonated explosion at Mexican bishops’ offices

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Catholic News Service

MEXICO CITY — An anarchist group calling itself “Informal Feminist Commando of Anti-Authoritarian Action Coatlicue” has claimed credit for detonating an explosive device outside the Mexican bishops’ conference offices.

The group said via an online posting in late July: “Not God nor master. For each torture and murder in the name of your God. For every child abused by pedophile priests.”

The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City is across from where an explosive device was detonated outside the offices of the Mexican bishops' conference,. (CNS photo/Sashenka Gutierrez, EPA)

The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City is across from where an explosive device was detonated outside the offices of the Mexican bishops’ conference,. (CNS photo/Sashenka Gutierrez, EPA)

Little is known about the group, though it is believed to detonated a similar devise March 17, Mexican media reported. Coatlicue is an Aztec goddess known as the mother of gods.

The group also claimed the device at the bishops’ office was made with dynamite, butane and propane. The Mexico City attorney general’s office said in a statement the device was made with a fire extinguisher, gunpowder, adhesive tape and a wick. It also said it was turning over the case to the federal attorney general’s office as the attack was on “a building administered by a religious association.”

No arrests have been made for the July 25 explosion, which occurred at offices across the street from the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the country’s most visited religious site.

The bishops’ conference declined to comment on the alleged attackers but said in a brief statement: “It will be the authorities who determine the veracity of that message and if it will be part of its investigation. We will continue working normally.”

The conference leadership said shortly after the explosion that it does not believe the incident was an attack on the church.

“This act invites us to reflect emphatically, to reconstruct our social fabric to provide better security for all citizens,” Auxiliary Bishop Alfonso Miranda Guardiola of Monterrey, conference secretary-general, told the media.

Humberto Roque Villanueva, Mexico’s undersecretary for population, migration and religious matters, called the explosion “a message of hate,” during an interview with the newspaper El Universal.

“I believe it is the regrettable need for priests to be very close to those in conflict …,” Roque said, “but I do not see that it is an orchestrated action, nor is it in itself a deliberate action or joining other actions against the Catholic Church.”

A statement provided to Catholic News Service by Armando Cavazos, bishops’ conference media director, said an explosion occurred July 25 at around 1:50 a.m. outside the main entrance to its offices in northern Mexico City.

“It appears this is not the first case that has occurred in this area of CDMX,” the statement said, using Mexico City’s abbreviation.

Bishop Ramon Castro Castro of Cuernavaca released the first images of the detonation via Twitter early July 25.

“I believe this reflects the situation in Mexico,” said Bishop Castro, who has spoken against violence affecting his diocese, just south of Mexico City.

Mexico recently suffered its most murderous month in 20 years with 2,234 homicides recorded in June. Mexico City also has experienced an upswing in crime, according to federal statistics.

The violence engulfing Mexico has not left the Catholic Church untouched, even though census data shows 83 percent of the population professing the faith. At least 18 Mexican priests have been murdered over the past five years, according to the Centro Catolico Multimedial, for reasons that confound Catholic officials.

The issue of clerical sexual abuse made headlines recently in Mexico. Two former priests filed criminal accusations against Cardinal Norberto Rivera for reporting the cases of 15 priests to the Vatican, but not the judicial authorities.

Cardinal Rivera rejected the accusations, saying he followed the law in Mexico as it was written at the time and alleging animus against him as he prepared to exit the archdiocese. The cardinal submitted his resignation June 6 upon turning 75, as required by canon law.

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Bishops in southern Mexico face threats from organized criminal groups

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Catholic News Service

 

MEXICO CITY - Bishops in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero have suffered threats from organized criminal groups as they serve a region rife with drug cartel activities and parishes located in impoverished indigenous communities where people eke out existences by cultivating opium poppies.

Bishop Maximino Miranda Martinez of Ciudad Altamirano was robbed of his vehicle after encountering a roadblock manned by an armed group in the violent Tierra Caliente region. Bishop Dagoberto Sosa Arriaga of Tlapa, meanwhile, was asked to pay extortion, but escaped making payment as those making the demands were run off by rivals. Read more »

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Mexican archdiocese: Companies that work on border wall are ‘traitors,’ ‘immoral’

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Catholic News Service

CUERNAVACA, Mexico — An editorial in a publication of the Archdiocese of Mexico City condemned Mexican companies wishing to work on the proposed wall being built on the U.S.-Mexico border as “traitors.”

“What’s regrettable is that on this side of the border, there are Mexicans ready to collaborate with a fanatical project that annihilates the good relationship between two nations that share a common border,” said the March 26 editorial in the archdiocesan publication Desde la Fe.

A view of a section of the wall separating Mexico and the United States is seen March 7 from Tijuana, Mexico. An Archdiocese of Mexico City editorial condemned Mexican companies wishing to work on the proposed wall being built on the U.S.-Mexico border as "traitors" and called on authorities to castigate any company that provides services for fencing off the frontier. (CNS photo/Edgard Garrido, Reuters)

A view of a section of the wall separating Mexico and the United States is seen March 7 from Tijuana, Mexico. An Archdiocese of Mexico City editorial condemned Mexican companies wishing to work on the proposed wall being built on the U.S.-Mexico border as “traitors” and called on authorities to castigate any company that provides services for fencing off the frontier. (CNS photo/Edgard Garrido, Reuters)

“Any company that plans to invest in the fanatic Trump’s wall would be immoral, but above all, their shareholders and owner will be considered traitors to the homeland,” the editorial continued. “Joining a project that is a grave affront to dignity is like shooting yourself in the foot.”

President Donald Trump ran on a promise of constructing a wall between the United States and Mexico and has signed an executive order to begin building the barrier on the nearly 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border.

The Mexican government has repeatedly said it will not pay for any border wall. Security analysts say illegal merchandise mostly crosses through legal ports of entry and express doubts a wall would keep out drugs, as Trump insists. Catholics who work with migrants transiting the country en route to the United States express doubts, too, saying those crossing the frontier illegally mostly do so with the help of human smugglers, who presumably pay bribes on both sides of the border.

Some Mexican companies have mused about working on the wall, though others such as Cemex, whose share prices surged on speculation it would provide cement for the wall, told the Los Angeles Times that it would not participate in the building of a border barrier.

Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray Caso has urged company officials to use their conscience when considering work on the wall, though the archdiocesan editorial said, “What is most surprising is the timidity of the Mexican government’s economic authorities, who have not moved firmly against these companies.”

Desde la Fe has previously blasted Trump’s proposed policies. In September 2015, it called Trump “ignorant” and a “clown” and blasted Mexican government passivity in defending its migrants as unpardonable.

Father Hugo Valdemar, Archdiocese of Mexico City spokesman, said some conservative Catholics in Mexico viewed Trump’s positions on pro-life issues favorably and were still angry the U.S. ambassador to Mexico marched in the annual pride parade. But he said he knew of no one in Mexico that openly supported the U.S. president.

“What we see from him is an authentic threat and an unstable person,” Father Valdemar said.

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Priest found dead in northern Mexico, fourth deadly attack of a clergyman in four months

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Catholic News Service

MEXICO CITY — A Catholic priest has been found dead in northern Mexico, marking another attack on clergy in a country where the widespread violence of the past decade has not spared church leaders.

The body of Father Joaquin Hernandez Sifuentes, 42, was discovered Jan. 11 in Parras de la Fuente, approximately 90 miles west of his working-class parish in Saltillo, while his vehicle was discovered abandoned in another state, the Coahuila state prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

Details on the disappearance of Father Hernandez remain uncertain, although Saltillo Bishop Raul Vera Lopez said Jan. 11 that two suspects had been arrested.

Father Hernandez was last seen celebrating Mass New Year’s Day at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in a community known as La Aurora and was scheduled to take vacation thereafter.

Colleagues became suspicious when they were unable to reach Father Hernandez on his cellphone, according to a diocesan statement. His room in the parish residence appeared messy, with draws left open and clothing strewn on the floor, uncharacteristic for Father Hernandez, while his suitcase had been left behind, along with his reading glasses.

Neighbors spotted two young men driving away with the priest’s car Jan. 3, but Father Hernandez was not with them. Bishop Vera said two suspects had been arrested, though the authorities had yet to confirm the details.

“All of Mexican society is exposed. Priests are not spared from violence,” said Bishop Vera Lopez, whose diocese has worked tirelessly to provide legal and spiritual support for the families of missing persons in the state of Coahuila, which borders Texas.

Father Hernandez was ordained in 2004, had worked in the diocesan family ministry and was pursuing a master’s degree in family studies at the John Paul II Pontifical Institute for Study on Marriage and Family at Anahuac University.

“Father Joaquin was someone who searched for perfection in every activity he did; the desire to always innovate in his work was reflected in the love of the faithful, including during these past 10 days,” while he was disappeared, the diocesan statement said.

The disappearance and death of Father Hernandez marks the fourth time in four months that a Mexican priest has been murdered. Another priest, Father Jose Luis Sanchez Ruiz, was found alive with signs of torture after being abducted in Veracruz state.

At least 16 priests have been killed since December 2012, according to a count by Mexico’s Catholic Multimedia Center.

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