Communique on the Present Situation in Panama, September 1989

Year Published
  • 2013
  • English

Panama, September 14, 1989


1. The Present Situation.

We pastors of the Catholic community of Panama, in fulfillment of our sacred and inescapable duty of accompanying and orientating our people, do so now in this difficult political and social situation which we are experiencing.

We refer to the new reality into which we as a nation have entered since the first of September.

Against all expectations both here and abroad we have a de facto government operating at the very edges of what the Constitution provides for.

Since the source of and reason for political power is the people, we see with sadness that the will of the people as expressed in the recent elections has been ignored, and with sorrow we recognize that the problems of our people, far from being solved, are increasing steadily.

In the face of these facts, we observe an atmosphere of confusion and discouragement among the Panamanian people whose legitimate aspirations have been defrauded. Thus we continue to consider as totally valid the measures called for in our August third communique as we gave a look to the future:

  • The effective exercise of the civilian power;

  • The termination of international sanctions;

  • The legal and effective recognition of human rights.

The only thing which could justify the action of a government that acknowledges itself to be provisional would be the direct, immediate and unconditional search for the will of the people in order to return to constitutional order as soon as possible, calling for this purpose on all representative sectors of the national population. To fail to do so is to condemn the Panamanian people to an ever-growing international isolation in both the political and the economic spheres, with its well known consequences of unemployment, hunger, lack of health care, marginalization and the like.

2. Why We Speak

Although for some it may be superfluous, we want to make absolutely clear the why and wherefore, the justification and the purpose, of our statements in this area:

a. Human beings, created in the image and likeness of God and raised to the dignity of the children of God through the birth, death and resurrection of Christ, deserve lives in accord with that dignity. "Human dignity is a gospel value that cannot be scorned without great offense to the Creator" (1)

b. It is so with every human activity of whatever order that there is an ethical dimension and an evangelical priority for the Church and for every Christian. (2)

c. The Church, "Teacher of Humanity," must speak out either to encourage or denounce situations which build up a tear down human dignity. (3)

d. The Church defends, as a corollary of human dignity and freedom, the right of the people to self-determination with both full autonomy and independence from internal or external forces that might restrict that right. (4)

e. We do not, on principle, accept any form of violent solution, either from within or from outside, nor any kind of repression or supposed liberation that would but result in new forms of servitude. (5)

f. Whatever coincidence or whatever incompatibility there may be between the expressions of the Church and those of either the government or the opposition is just that, coincidence. The Church is identified with no political party, no ideology and no form of government. (6)

3. Christian Attitude

For Christians, this critical stage of our history is a challenge for us to see the reality of both our personal and social sin that weighs upon us, and to take on a spirit of conversion which, starting with our innermost thoughts may arrive at the transformation of our lives and our structures, thus building up the "civilization of love."

Therefore, we call upon all to put aside egoism, personal interest and demogoguery, and join in the search for the common good.

Like the People of Israel during the times of exile, persecution and even destruction, we have to hold on to the conviction that "our God is a God who saves," and that "justice and righteousness will govern the earth".

Christian hope, then, should give life to our being and inspire us to so act in the world as to search out the means sufficient to construct "the new heaven and the new earth."

As the one true church of the Lord Jesus, we take note of the signs of the times in order to offer to all Panamanians our word of faith and contribution to reconciliation and reconstruction, concerning the Panama which we want to build, hand in hand with all Panamanians of good will.

Once again we call for an intensification of prayer, for new expressions of unity and solidarity, and for renewed efforts toward the new Panama which we so need.

Jose Dimas Cedeno
Bishop of Veraguas
President of the C.E.P.

Marcos G. McGrath, C.S.C.
Archbishop of Panama

Daniel E. Nunez
Bishop of David
Vice-President of the C.E.P.

Jose Luis Lacunza, O.A.R.
Auxiliary of Panama
General Secretary of the C.E.P.


1.John Paul II, Opening Address at Puebla 1979, III,1, a.

2.Cf. Sermon on the Mount, specifically Mt. 7:21; also, Gaudium et Spes #10.

3.Cf. John Paul II, Opening Address at Puebla, I, 9.

4.Cf. Pacem in Terris, #35-45.

5.Cf. Puebla Conclusions #531-2.

6.Cf. John Paul II, Opening Address at Puebla, III, 2.