An urgent plea to the authorities of the State of Morelos

To the Federal Government

To the government of the State of Morelos

To the Attorney General of the State of Morelos

To Public Opinion in general

Pope Francis, in his recent visit to Mexico emphasized the witness of those citizens who «have understood that in order to overcome situations borne of closed-minded individualism an agreement is necessary between political, social and market institutions and all men and women committed to the common good and the advancement of the dignity of the individual.»

Echoing those words we, the member Bishops of the Episcopal Commission for Social Issues (CEPS), make a vehement call to the responsible authorities to deal with the acts of violence that have recently taken place in the State of Morelos, which we detail below, and to explain the acts of violence and intimidation that various pastoral officials of the Diocese of Cuernavaca have suffered.

A few days ago an outrage took place in the church of the Tepalcingo shrine, in eastern Morelos, which is the site of an old simmering issue over a centuries old feast in which on the third Friday of Lent pilgrims flock to venerate the image of Jesus the Nazorean. The recurring problem centers on the handling of resources. A spurious committee, supposedly named by the people, has been trying to assume control of the event, reducing the role of the pastor to that of an employee.  These are people who do not participate in the pastoral life of the community, some are not even Catholic, who want to subject the church to their own will combined with their political interests.

This past February 4, the aforementioned group occupied the courtyard of the church impeding all the pastoral and cultural activities of the parish. The days that followed were full of tension, insults and slander. The Pastor received threats against his person both verbally and in writing. On Sunday February 7 the parish associations and groups decided to organize a march for peace, which resulted in the expulsion of the occupiers from the sacred areat. Half an hour later they returned, together with a group of ticuanes (masked dancers), who apparently had been prepared beforehand with intoxicating drink and other stimulants; they broke into the parish residence bearing chains, sticks, machetes, rocks and other weapons, beating people and destroying doors, windows, bathrooms and furnishings of the house occupied by two priests.

There are witnesses who declare that during this prolonged period of violence the authorities did not intervene, but continued observing as the witnesses were beaten and some had to flee.  The attackers, apparently unconnected to the parish and only contracted to carry out the violence, asked Who the priest was that they were looking for so that they could lynch him. Somehow, two of the four priest who were present managed to escape.

The vicar’s motorcycle was burned, $120,000 pesos (about $6,900 USD), which the Pastor had borrowed to purchase supplies for the feast were stolen, as were computers and anything else that could be taken.  The Holy Eucharist was knocked to the ground, trampled and profaned. They poked fun at the sacred vestments and showed off all that they took for themselves: computers, money, shoes and clothing belonging to the priests.

We are extremely concerned with the fact that the authorities did not intervene. Even when the violence had ceased and the house was destroyed, neither the local, state or federal police removed the attackers, they were allowed to remain in possession of the shrine and the pilgrim’s house. To this day the group has control of the shrine and the parishioners who remain with the priests are not allowed inside the church.

The day after the incidents took place, February 8, they were reported to the local prosecutor and to the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Morelos; however, the accusations were rejected by both entities without giving any reason or cause. We would also like to note the almost complete lack of local media coverage of the events and the lack of objectivity in the scant coverage that does exist, a fact that suggests a desire to manipulate the information and not let it come to light.

We cannot help but to ask, where is the rule of law? Who or what interests are behind this vicious and disproportionately violent attack? Is this to be another event that will remain completely unpunished?

The Episcopal Commission for Social Issues would like to express its solidarity with Msgr. Ramón Castro, Bishop of Cuernavaca and a member of this Commission in charge of episcopal issues related to Justice, Peace and Reconciliation, Faith and Politics. We are concerned for his physical safety, that of all his ministers and pastoral representatives and of all his faithful, for this is not an isolated incident and can be added to a series of threats and intimidations that have been taking place in the Dioceses of Cuernavaca.

We trust that the state and federal authorities will respond immediately and with a sense of urgency, and that they will take steps to implement effective and appropriate measures to protect and guarantee the safety of those in need of such protection. «Whenever we seek the a path of privilege or benefits of a few at the expense of the good of all, sooner or later social life will become fertile ground for corruption, drug trafficking, the exclusion of cultures that are different, violence, and even the trafficking of people, kidnaping and death, causing suffering and impeding development» (Pope Francis at the National Palace).

The CEPS Bishops

Msgr. José Leopoldo González González
Bishop of Nogales
President of CEPS and Caritas Mexico

Msgr. Guillermo Ortíz Mondragón
Bishop of Cuautitlán
Commission on Human Movements

Msgr. Guillermo Francisco Escobar Galicia
Bishop of Teotihuacán
Commission on Indigenous People

Msgr. Enrique Sánchez Martínez
Bishop of Nuevo Laredo
Commission on Health

Msgr. Jorge Alberto Cavazos Arizpe
Auxiliary Bishop of Monterrey
Commission on Work   

Msgr. Andrés Vargas  Peña
Auxiliary Bishop of México
Commission on Prisons

[Translated by Enrique Treviño: original article.]

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