Letter to Bishop Ruiz Garcia on Acteal Massacre, December 31, 1997

Year Published
  • 2013
  • English

December 31, 1997 

Most Reverend Samuel Ruíz Garcia
Bishop of San Cristóbal de Las Casas
5 de Febrero No. 6
29200 San Cristóbal de Las Casas
FAX: (52)(967) 8-31-36

Dear Bishop Ruíz, 

As you, and the whole Church of the San Cristóbal Diocese, pass these sorrowful days mourning the December 22 massacre of so many innocent women and children, I send this message joining our own sorrow with yours and that especially of the suffering Tzotzil people of your Diocese. 

In a century that has been bloodied by so many horrible atrocities, of wars and genocides and massacres almost without number, it is still a shock to learn of the kind of wanton murder that occurred last week in the village of Acteal in San Pedro Chenalho. More shocking still to learn that these barbarous acts began in the village chapel where the people--mostly women and young children--had gathered to pray precisely for peace in that region of continuous conflict, and that the killers were allegedly members of a paramilitary group identified with the nation's ruling party. 

All the faithful of the Diocese, not only the families of the 45 slain and the more than two dozen wounded, have been affected by this senseless tragedy. You have urged the people to remain true to the message of Christ's Sermon on the Mount and not give in "to the understandable temptation of hatred and vengeance," but rather to "honor the convictions that inspired the victims and that continue to give hope to their survivors." But how hard it was, as you said in your moving statement issued the day after the massacre, to say the words Feliz Navidad, "en la Navidad más triste de nuestra vida" -- in the saddest Christmas of our life. 

We pray that out of this darkness, the Light of the new-born Christ will illumine the hearts of all and will bring those of hardened hearts to conversion. The tragically stalled peace talks must be re-started with new vigor so that the new year may at last see progress toward justice, peace, and reconciliation among the people of Chiapas.

To you, to Bishop Raúl Vera, and to the whole Church of San Cristóbal, I send both the condolences and the expression of fraternal solidarity of the Church in the United States. 

Fraternally yours in Christ, 

Most Reverend Theodore E. McCarrick
Archbishop of Newark
Chairman, USCC Committee on International Policy