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Pope Francisco honours Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia, defender of the poor



Pope Francisco honours Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia, defender of the poor



Pope Francisco visits the tomb of Bishop Samuel Ruíz García. Bishop Raúl Vera is next to the Pope.

By: Isaín Mandujano

Today, Pope Francisco put an end to decades of exclusion of a Church that opted for the poor, rescued native ancestral roots and inculcated a liberating vision.

At the interior of the Cathedral of the San Cristóbal de las Casas Diocese, Pope Francisco prayed today in front of the tomb of Bishop Samuel Ruiz García and blessed it, which has been interpreted by those closest to jTatik Samuel [1] as an integration or vindication of the work he constructed for 50 years.

“The fact that Pope Francisco has a moment of silent prayer in front of the jTatik Samuel’s tomb is extremely significant, it’s endorsing a work, a path of 40 years. Very similar to the defender of the poor Bishop Fray Bartolomé de las Casas at the beginning of the colonial epoch,” said the parish priest of Bachajón, José Javier Avilés Arreola, a member of the Company of Jesus.

The priest that came to Chiapas in 1984 and was adopted by the indigenous Tzeltal communities, remembered that jTatik Samuel was walking with the people, converting their hearts, letting himself be a pastor for his people. “Thank God that jTatik Francisco has asked to come to this poor Diocese, a Diocese that economically speaking has little to offer. But with a great richness of walking in defence of their rights, an integral pastoral that we have led for many years, that is what comes to strengthen jTatik Francisco, to speak to us about forgiveness, to tell us that we can continue walking with the illusions of this people, to continue being free and to continue fighting for their own land, for their resources, from the word of God, from the gospel, from the fast, from communion, from forgiveness. jTatik Pope Francisco invites us to that,” said the religious man also known as Father Pepe Avilés.

Avilés remembered that Bishop Samuel Ruiz García was a misunderstood bishop, so much so that the Vatican cancelled the ordination of married deacons, and for 14 years there were no ordinations. It was thanks to the effort of current Bishop Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel that Pope Francisco lifted the veto at the end of last year and the ordination of deacons started again.

He explained the importance of those deacons, and that it’s not the deacon that one sees assisting in the masses because the ones in this Diocese are real pastors that lead their community, but there are also women pastors, because the Deacons walk with their spouses.

“The deacons don’t conceive of service that is individual, the two walk together, they are in communion. In that meaning of gender equity the West would have a lot to learn because they know how to work as a couple,” he emphasized.

According to Father Heriberto Cruz Vera, the Pope’s gesture recognizes that Church that was constructed with an option for the poor. What Papa Francisco now proclaims –he added– Samuel Ruiz already did and made known in the indigenous communities of Chiapas, but Juan Pablo II and Benedict XVI, never wanted to support it.

Cruz Vera pointed out that for many years, the Vatican considered the Church that Samuel Ruiz constructed as an “irregular Church.” Many governors wanted to expel him from Chiapas and many religious hierarchs inside the Catholic Church itself did everything to remove him but while they were not able to get him out neither did the Vatican do anything that Pope Francisco just did: vindicate him.

Just like Cruz Vera, two of Samuel Ruiz García’s other close collaborators, Joel Padrón and Gonzalo Ituarte emphasized Francisco’s visit, the arrival of a Pope for the first time in its almost 500 years of creation.

Today, Pope Francisco ate where jTatik ate for 40 years, from this Cathedral where Bishop Samuel Ruiz García consolidated and framed his pastoral line with the Diocesan Synod from 1995 to 2000 that the same Bishop Samuel Ruiz headed.

A Synod that framed the standard to follow among all the faithful and the religious structure of the Diocese, in such a way that any Bishop that comes here would not be able to break apart or change theRuiz García’s heritage.

“The Pope’s visit is encouragement, hope and strength to renew our soul in a Diocese that has opted for the poor for more than 50 years, not excluding all the rest, but it is very comprehensible,” concluded Father José Javier Avilés Arriola, parish priest of the Bachajón Mission.

[1] jTatik means Father in a Mayan language, Tzeltal (also spelled Tseltal).


Originally Published in Spanish by Chiapas Paralelo

Monday, February 15, 2016


Re-published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee