Tragic death of a bishop in Guatemala: The president of the CCCB ask the Canadian Government to intervene

Tuesday, April 28 1998

The Honourable Lloyd Axworthy
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Lester B. Pearson Building
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, Ontario
K1N 0A6

Dear Mr. Minister:

In the wake of the assassination during the evening of April 26 of Most Reverend Juan José Gerardi Conedera, Auxiliary Bishop of Guatemala, we request an immediate intervention with the government authorities of Guatemala in order that they proceed with an inquiry as quickly as possible.

Given the recent history of that country, and notably the impunity enjoyed there by many perpetrators of the most horrible crimes, we believe the Government of Canada must insist that Guatemalan authorities do everything possible to find the assassins and bring them to justice.

Our episcopal colleague dedicated his life to the defence and promotion of human rights. Despite repeated obstacles and difficulties, including death threats against himself and other members of his diocesan Church, he continued his ministry among the humblest and most marginalized of Guatemala, namely native people.

In 1982, when he was President of the Guatemalan Episcopal Conference, the Government of Guatemala refused to allow him to re-enter his country, forcing him to live in exile for two years. After having exercised a pastoral ministry among the native peoples first as Bishop of the Diocese of Las Verapaces and then of the Diocese of El Quiché, he established a human rights office in the Archdiocese of Guatemala, where he continued to serve as coordinator.

We are shocked and pained over this crime. We believe that the Government of Canada, as an international defender and promoter of human rights, should demand Guatemalan authorities to bring light to bear on this assassination and to continue efforts to reestablish a climate that is more respectful of human rights.

Sincerely in Our Lord,

+ Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte
Archbishop of Montreal
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops