To mark the first anniversary of Bishop Gerardi's assassination: Letters sent by Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte to the President of Guatemala and the President of the Episcopal Conference

Tuesday, April 13 1999
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His Excellency Alvaro Arzú Irigoyen
President of the Republic of Guatemala
Palacio Nacional
6a. Calle y 7a. Avenida, Zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala

Your Excellency:

The members of the Permanent Council of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB)  have unanimously agreed that I write to you on the occasion of the first anniversary of the assassination of the Auxiliary Bishop of Guatemala City, the Most Reverend Juan José Gerardi Conedera. This anniversary, on Monday, April 26, 1999, will be honoured in prayers and special liturgies throughout Canada, and Bishop Gerardi's witness fervently remembered.

As we approach this occasion, the Bishops of Canada make their own those words of the Guatemalan Episcopal Conference when they recognized their brother bishop in a special message last October:

 Monseñor Gerardi is for us an example of a pastor who, first in Verapaz, then in el Quiché, and finally in the Archdiocese of Guatemala, knew how to consecrate himself to his pastoral duties with sensitivity, wisdom and steadfastness. He was also an indefatigable defender of human dignity, above all in his role as leader of the Archdiocesan Office for Human Rights. In spite of the difficulties and inherent risks of this position, he spared no effort to shine the light of truth on the probably most obscure and horrible pages of our national history, as he gave momentum to the Recuperation of Historic Memory (REMHI) project. He sought to heal the deep wounds in the hearts of so many Guatemalans and, in this way, to open the path to an authentic reconciliation.

On behalf of the Bishops of Canada, we respectfully ask that you do all in your power to invigorate the cumbersome investigation into Bishop Gerardi's assassination, so that within the least possible delay the truth about this sad event may be fully made known. Additionally, we look forward to your government's positive response to the recommendations of the Historical Clarification Commission (CEH), so that new life can be breathed into the peace process.

We join our prayer today with that of our brother Bishops of Guatemala and all the citizens of Guatemala and Canada who are working for peace with justice. Following the example of Bishop Gerardi, our prayer echoes the epistle of James, 3:18: "The harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace." 

Sincerely yours in Christ, 

+ Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte 
Archbishop of Montreal 
President 
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops 
  
Cc  The Honourable Lloyd Axworthy, Minister of Foreign Affairs
      His Excellency Jorge Skinner-Klee, Ambassador of Guatemala to Canada 


Most Reverend Jorge Avila del Aguila
Bishop of Jalapa
President of the Episcopal Conference of Guatemala
Apartado 1698
01901 Ciudad de Guatemala

Your Excellency:

"If a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (John 12.24). These words of Our Lord come spontaneously to mind as the Church in Guatemala prepares to commemorate on April 26 the first anniversary of the brutal death of Most Reverend Juan José Gerardi Conedera.

This familiar image of a grain dying in order to bear fruit evokes the mystery of Jesus who humbly descended to death and was raised in glory, for his passion and death indeed lead to the rich harvest of the resurrection. Having served unto the death of the cross, Jesus entered into the glory to which he invites his disciples.

As your Episcopal Conference said so well about Bishop Gerardi on October 22 of last year, he was "an indefatigable defender of human dignity, above all in his role as leader of the Archdiocesan Office for Human Rights. In spite of the difficulties and inherent risks of this position, he spared no effort to shine the light of truth on the probably most obscure and horrible pages of [your] national history, as he gave momentum to the Recuperation of Historic Memory (REMHI) project."

Following the example of Christ, in sparing "no effort to shine the light of truth," Bishop Gerardi gave witness at the cost of life itself. A faithful servant, he was not attached to his own life but followed Jesus to death. Sharing thus in the death and resurrection of Jesus, he now shines in the light of the Risen Christ.

As we all prepare for this anniversary which will inevitably resound with painful memories, be assured Your Excellency that the Church in Canada is united with the Church in Guatemala in offering to the Lord this precious gift of the life of Bishop Gerardi. May it be a pleasing sacrifice that leads to forgiveness and reconciliation for the noble and generous people of Guatemala. 

Yours in solidarity in Our Lord, 

+ Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte 
Archbishop of Montreal 
President 
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
For More Information Contact:
Deacon William Kokesch
Director, Communications Service

 

Last Updated on Thursday, August 17 2006