April 27, 1998 .
- The members of the Episcopal Conference declare to the Catholic people of Guatemala and to all persons of good will their profound sorrow at the despicable assassination of Monsenor Juan Gerardi Conedera, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Guatemala.
- We condemn this vile assassination and call for its immediate investigation by the competent authorities.
- We fear that this assassination may be linked to the presentation last Friday, April 24th of the report of the Project for the Recovery of Historical Memory (REMHI) of which Bishop Gerardi was the General Coordinator, a project which investigated the massacres and assassinations directed against the Guatemalan people during the years of the internal armed conflict, and which also clearly pointed out the institutional responsibilities implicated in the conflict.
- The memory of the bishop should not be stained by simply reducing the causes of his death to a game of political revenge, and we want equally to prevent any efforts to manipulate his memory for political gain.
- As pastors, we wish to invite all to recognize that Bishop Gerardi offered his life as the good shepherd who lays down his life for his flock (Jn 10:11). As a disciple of Jesus, he followed Him faithfully even unto death, for He had said that "as they have persecuted me, so also will they persecute you" (Jn 15:20). He is the grain of wheat that has been sown in the earth at a great price; we cherish the hope that it will bring forth the fruits of life (cf. Jn 12:24).
- Bishop Girardi's pastoral service to the People of God was noted for its courage. On two previous occasions, both in 1980 while he was bishop of El Quiche, he survived attempts on his life. One was an ambush in his own diocese, the other was to have taken place near the Aurora Airport. This latter failed because he was not allowed to enter Guatemala and was forced to take up exile in Costa Rica.
- The assassination of Bishop Gerardi must be understood in the context of the climate of violence that our country has experienced for so many years, a violence that he so strongly opposed. Once again, we raise our voices in defense of life. The easy recourse to the spilling of blood to protect personal or group interests, the impunity which prevents the uncovering of crimes, and the silence that seeks forgetfulness, all of these continue to prevent us from building ourselves into a national community in which we can respect each other as fellow human beings.
- Our message today, as on so many other previous occasions, is that life is a gift of God. May life be protected and enhanced through truth, through faithful commitment, through the call to conversion, justice and forgiveness. The history of Guatemala is written in the blood that so many have shed. Today, one of the pastors of the Church of Guatemala crowns his mission by the offering of his life in the search for truth, justice and peace.
- We pray God that our brother Bishop Juan Gerardi who has shared in the death of Jesus may share also with Him the glory of the resurrection, together with Our blessed Mother and all the saints. We ask that all join together in prayer, and that Mass be offered in the parishes for his eternal rest. We invite all to express their sorrow in prayer before his body in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Guatemala and to participate in his funeral rites this Wednesday, April 29th, at 10:00 a.m.
Mons. Victor Hugo Martinez
Bishop of Quetzaltenango
President, Guatemalan Episcopal Conference
Mons. Pedro Vizcaino Prado
Bishop of Suchitepequez-Retalhuleu
General Secretary, Guatemalan Episcopal Conference