TRANSLATION: Communique on the Present Crisis from the Guatemala Episcopal Conference

May 29, 1993 

Jesus called his disciples and said to them, "I have compassion on the people" (Mt. 15:32) 

The sorrowful cry of Jesus on seeing his people disorietated, defenseless, hungry and hopeless, reverberates strongly today within our hearts as pastors of the Catholic people of Guatemala. We therefore feel required to offer a word of orientation that may help disperse the darkness of the present hour and return to our people the hope that was lost because of what happened last Tuesday, the 25th of May.

1.0 Some have, with serious bases, offered a legal judgment on these latest developments; others, in their turn, have expressed a political judgment. In fulfilling our duty as pastors, it is our task to formulate an ethical judgment, based on the Gospel, concerning the present situation and the consequences that follow from the breaking of the constitutional order and of the peace process.

1.1 We are concerned with and saddened by the destruction of the democratic process that began a few years ago at the cost of great suffering and as the fruit of the sacrifice of innumerable lives. We are saddened as well to see our country once again repudiated by the world of nations. And we lament the fact that corruption, impunity, administrative inefficiency--realities which we have many times denounced in previous statements--have served as the pretext or excuse for the drastic decisions that have brought the country to the brink of one of its greatest institutional crises.

1.2 Above all, we are saddened that such questionable means will result in greater suffering for our people. International isolation and the cut-off of aid from friendly nations, as well as the closing off of markets, will necessarily result in greater empoverishment, more hunger, and more misery for the great majority of the Guatemalan people.

1.3 The return of a regime of force, without the correctives of a legitimate constitutional order, once again leaves citizens defenseless in the face of the arbitrary actions of those who wield power. We have good reason to fear that the cruel repression, the state's iron control, and the unpunished violation of human rights will return as the common norm of national life. The traumatic recollection of the repression suffered in the last decade is still fresh in the memory of our people. 

All this is an offense against God, it is a sin which cries to the heavens; and the Lord, defender of the poor, will demand to know: "Cain, where is your brother Abel? What have you done? The blood of your brother cries out to me from the earth." (Gen. 4:9-10) 

2. Paths of Hope. As pastors, responsible for the flock that Christ has commended to us (cf. 1 Peter 5:2) in the search for the common good, we are called not only to point out the evils and dangers which are descending upon Guatemala, but, filled with hope, to signal as well possible routes toward a solution.

2.1 Over and above any other consideration, it is neccessary to keep in mind that "what is at stake is the dignity of the human person, whose defense and promotion have been entrusted to us by the Creator, and to whom the men and women at every moment of history are strictly and responsibly in debt. As many people are already more or less clearly aware, the present situation does not seem to correspond to this dignity." (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis #47)

2.2 With eyes focused on this human dignity and in the search for the common good, we propose, humbly and straighforwardly, that the following path to a solution be followed:

2.2.1. The first absolutely essential step is the return to the institutional order and the full implementation of the Political Constitution of the Republic. 

2.2.2. The second step, once the constitutional order is fully in force. should be the opening of a national dialogue or debate or consultation, carried out in an atmosphere of real freedom and mutual respect, with representation of all social, ethnic, political and economic sectors of the country. It is absolutely necessary that the government establish and guarantee the conditions essential for carrying out this forum. Such a dialogue could be convoked and moderated by the presidents of the various universities of Guatemala.

2.2.3. The third step could be the holding of a referendum that would let the people express their agreement to the conclusions of the national dialogue.

3. It should be clear that the content of this communique follows the same approach expressed by this Bishops' Conference some years ago when, in support of the then recently begun democratic process, we said: "To delay us on the road undertaken with such sacrifice, or to slide backwards, would be a tragedy of unbelievable consequences." (CEG Communique, 1/29/88)

Precisely because what we feared then has now happened, we are conscious of how especially grave is the situation we now face and we believe that the solution lies in overcoming those human attitudes such as the seeking after exclusive and excessive gain, and the thirst for power, which Pope John Paul II called the root of all social ills. (cf. SRS #37) 

It is the time, then, for a Christian response, for true conversion, based on love and especially its dimension of genuine solidarity, which the Pope defines as "a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good." (SRS #38) 

In the name of Christ, our Savior, we issue a call to reflection, so that all of us Guatemalans may responsibly take on the challenges of the present moment, and thus, through our patriotic actions, enlightened by our Christian faith, build a society that is more just, more human, more united. 

In concluding this communique, we urge our brothers and sisters to pray ceaselessly, and on this eve of the solemnity of Pentecost, we pray for the light and strength of the Holy Spirit. May our Mother Mary protect the Guatemalan people who so love her, now in these moments of special suffering and hardship. 

Translation: Office of International Justice and Peace-USCC (6/1/93)