Message from Bishops of Mexico on Justice and Reconciliation, April 15, 1994
For Christ is our peace,
he who made both one
and broke down the dividing wall of enmity. (Eph.2:14)
- In the strength of Christ who defeated death, we bishops of Mexico gathered in our 56th Plenary Assembly, concerned as we are along with our whole nation over the situation of violence, uncertainty, mistrust and growing impoverishment, greet both those who share with us the Catholic faith and those who wish to listen to us.
- At a time when fear and uncertainty seem to be shutting doors, the risen Christ journeys with us and offers us his peace, bringing us security and hope.
1. Our Situation and Its Challenges
- Mortal incidents have stung our consciousness. The murder of Cardinal Juan Jesús Posadas, the armed uprising in the Chiapas highlands, and the crime against Lic. Luis Donaldo Colosio have shaken the entire country. These are nevertheless only the most prominent examples of the climate of violence which we are suffering, expressed in kidnappings, assaults, verbal and physical terrorism, murders, an unrelenting struggle for power, insults of all kinds, delayed or corrupt administration of justice, contempt for the law, sexual attacks and all manner of human rights violations.
- Moreover, wages are insufficient and unemployment is worsening; low prices for agricultural products are strangling peasants to death; small and medium industries are suffering from the high cost of credit, disproportionate taxes, and unfair competition; the middle class is shrinking rapidly. The result is the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few and the growing impoverishment of the majority; such developments are very dangerous since they threaten the social peace for which we all yearn.
- On top of this we have a suffocating atmosphere of mistrust in institutions, whether governmental or civil, thus fueling discouragement and uncertainty about the future. The church itself is the object of attacks that seek to discredit it. We face a truly alarming crisis.
- In addition to poverty of material means, we find another more worrisome kind: the lack of a moral conscience, which comes from so many years of laicism; from a systematic exclusion of ethical values from education; and from the abandonment of the traditional values of the Mexican family, which are under assault from all sides, especially through the mass media. Each individual thinks that his or her own criteria, desires, and demands are the sole and supreme norm of morality. The door thus opens to an easygoing attitude that stands in contrast to the demands of the gospel and of a universally valid ethics. We feel tempted to invoke God's reproach to Israel: "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil!" (Is. 5:20)
- The human being is the only creature worthy of being appreciated for itself; however, the most recent events have unmasked the disguised racism prevalent among us since time immemorial. Our relationship with native people, and the contempt many have for their language, customs, and overall culture are clear signs of discrimination. We have not regarded them as the agents of social change and of evangelization.
- On the other hand, the efforts made to assure clean election processes are encouraging. We regret, however, that a lack of confidence extends even into this area, and indicated by the low level of participation by the people in the electoral campaigns, as we said in our recent statement, "Values for Democracy."
- Reconciliation among all Mexicans is an urgent need, for we see division, hatred, and resentment, whether racial or ethnic, social, cultural, or economic, or even religious or ecclesial in nature, that could spill over and out of control.
- We know that some producers and business people show responsibility and awareness, but we nonetheless deplore the continuing expressions of concentrated personal power and patronage, whether economic or political, by individuals or groups; it is an obstacle to justice, peace, and reconciliation. Sometimes such people impede the profound changes that society is calling for. They want nothing to change and do not tolerate anything that affects their interests.
II. Christ, Our Peace
- Certainly the moment our country is undergoing is painful and perplexing. We Christians, however, have a firm faith, a secure trust, and an unfailing hope: its name is Jesus Christ.
- Since the distant days of the first evangelization which enjoyed the maternal warmth of Our Lady of Guadalupe, we Mexicans have learned to trust in Jesus Christ whom we call our hope (cf. Col. 1:27).
- We believe in him and trust in him as Lord of History, center and destiny of God's loving design; all human roads converge toward him. He who was "handed over for our sins and rose for our justification" (Rom. 4:25) is the guide, author and completion of our faith.
- This is the content of the Easter feasts that we are celebrating, and in which with the power of the Holy Spirit we make present the redemptive death of Christ and his resurrection from the dead through the glorious power of the Father. Thus the suffering and agony we endure for the sake of justice and truth are incorporated into those of Christ and acquire a paschal dimension: our death is transformed into life, our suffering into joy, and our perplexity into hope.
- Together with our fellow bishops at Santo Domingo we say to you, "Beset by problems and crosses, we nevertheless intend to continue to serve as witnesses on our continent to God's love and prophets of that imperishable hope. We want to 'inaugurate a new age under the sign of hope' (John Paul II, Opening Address)" (Santo Domingo, 3).
III. The Church, Sign of Communion
- The church has been called to extend the saving power of Christ, who died and rose again. This is the reason for its dignity, but it is also what makes its task so demanding. Its obligation is to announce, make present, and celebrate the life- giving enterprise that Christ came to bring to the world.
- The life-giving power provided by the church transforms individuals and communities from within, and consequently acts as a powerful impulse of humanism, unity, and reconciliation; hence the church must become an instrument of a holiness that may be a driving force toward true human advancement and Christian culture.
- The great task for us who believe in Christ is to attain a way of being and acting that reveals us to be signs and agents of new life in Christ. We are called to witness with joy and confidence that we are children of a common Father who should live as brothers and sisters, opening ourselves to others, standing "in solidarity with all human beings, especially those who suffer the most" (Santo Domingo, 32).
- At this specific time, the church in our midst, in fidelity to its vocation, must save by calling all the people in order to transform them into the family of God's children; it must fight against all seeds of division, discrimination, hatred, violence, exploitation; in general, against all that is opposed to the spirit of the beatitudes.
IV. The Church, Servant of Humankind
- With its social teaching, the church offers us guidelines for effecting a deep and even radical change in the life we share in society.
- To begin with, it motivates us to form a society which both fosters personal development and places it at the service of all. No one in Mexico should feel unworthy or less than others; we all have particular riches to contribute for the good of all. Esteem for human beings and respect for their dignity means accepting the human wealth of our nation and the complementarity that God has granted us in the "different Mexicos" that make up our homeland. A national sin has been our contempt for, and waste of, this rich human legacy, beginning with ethnic groups; they are completely justified in demanding not only that they be taken into account in our national life, but that they contribute to our homeland the gifts that they have received from the Creator.
- For the church, society is not the coming together of a multitude of egoisms, balanced, controlled, or brought into subjection by a power structure, the state. The church conceives of society as the free interaction of persons responsibly using their freedom and abilities so that in collaboration with others they may achieve a common life in which all reach their full development in keeping with their common human dignity.
- Human sociability is not exhausted in the state, but demands the presence and healthy strengthening of primary groups, among which the family, the first school of social life, stands out, along with those "intermediate groups" of a political, economic, cultural, or religious character. Since they are rooted in human nature, their proper independence ought to be acknowledged and fostered without overstepping the limits of the common good. Without these intermediate groups there is no society, let alone true democracy.
- Society is not an object to be manipulated but a "subject" that makes responsible decisions about itself, establishes order in the common life of its members, and sets its economic and cultural ideal.
- This kind of society spontaneously gives rise to solidarity, that Christian virtue which "is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say for the good of all" (SRS, 38). Solidarity means really drawing close to one's brothers and sisters, whoever they may be, in order to commit oneself to them, to give them the best of oneself, to serve them rather than to oppress them for one's own benefit. It starts from the conviction that we must all grow together and that we may more easily become better human beings if we are united in our efforts.
- Likewise, true democracy is possible only in a solidary and participatory society. "The church values the democratic system inasmuch as it ensures the participation of citizens in making political choices, guarantees to the governed the possibility both of electing and holding accountable those who govern them, and of replacing them through peaceful means when appropriate" (CA 46).
- Moreover, the church recognizes the positive side of the market economy into which our country has entered with hope but also with great disparity and economic suffering among the people. It never concedes to the market absolute freedom, however, for the market must be oriented toward the common good. The welfare of all Mexicans will be the measure used to justify its validity in our midst. We understand how difficult it is to introduce the appropriate change into a country's economy, at the proper moment and in an adequate time period so as to bring about an overall improvement in the standard of living. That is why it is today more essential than ever that the state be vigilant and honest in this activity, and that all citizens loyally put forth their best efforts.
- With regard to violence, "There are certainly situations whose injustice cries to heaven. When whole populations destitute of necessities live in a state of dependence barring them from all initiative and responsibility, and all opportunity to advance culturally and share in social and political life, recourse to violence, as a means to right these wrongs to human dignity, is a grave temptation" (PP 30). Nevertheless, we add our voice to the general rejection of violence as a way to resolve problems, for violence begets more violence.
- It is also true, and our recent experience confirms it, that "if the class struggle abstains from enmities and mutual hatred, it gradually changes into an honest discussion of differences founded on a desire for justice" (CA 14). An authentic struggle demands clearsightedness, moderation, suffering, and sacrifice--as well as prayer and unlimited trust in God in whose hands human history lies.
V. Toward a More Just Society
- What does God ask of us in these specific circumstances of our history? What is our conscience telling us? In this regard we propose the following lines of action.
- We must be committed to overcoming any kind of injustice, for it is contrary to God's will. Hence we appeal to the conscience of those who wield economic, political or social power not to make profit at the cost of indigenous people, peasants, and workers. The great social disparities, the extravagance and luxury of the powerful, racial discrimination and exclusion are all assaults on the peace of family and society.
- We also invite those in charge of the country's economic policies to examine the results of the present system, because although in some respects it has improved the economy as a whole, it has done so at the cost of widespread impoverishment.
- We urge the competent authorities to impart justice promptly and expeditiously in order to avoid the temptation to pursue it on one's own.
- We ask leaders of all kinds of social organizations that when they make their demands, they refrain from demagogical attitudes, taking up arms, invading lands, blocking highways, impeding urban life and other violations of the rights of third parties, for such things cause greater instability and disrupt the peacemaking process.
- We issue an urgent appeal that the political campaign of the parties for the presidency unfold in a climate of respect, civility, and maturity. We must absolutely reject all violence, whether verbal or physical. Violence is not the way to change things; rather "that which today is termed passive resistance shows a way more conformable to moral principles and having no less prospects for success" (LC 79).
- We earnestly encourage citizens to go to the polls, after first discerning the main ideas of the various parties and the ability of their candidates to promote justice, peace and truth. This, together with respect for the vote, will generate trust and close the door on attempts at violent solutions.
- We will seek to promote human advancement and social action in all our dioceses, as major signs of the culture of life, in the spirit of the new evangelization and in accordance with the church's social teaching and the Santo Domingo document.
- We must promote organizations that work together in solidarity and community projects in the areas of production, marketing, and consumption with the aim of overcoming the longstanding evil of the patronage system and encouraging a healthy kind of community development. We invite business people with a Christian conscience to take on the risk of investing in impoverished areas.
- We feel the need to encourage relationships based on truth, for we are aware that lying, deceit, duplicity, and dissimulation envelop our daily life, and are undermining the peace and progress of Mexico.
- We must devote ourselves to the Christian formation of consciousness and rescue the lost values of gospel morality, especially respect for life at all its stages, freedom based on truth, and esteem for the dignity of the person.
- Teachers must provide a civic formation that cultivates love for our country and its traditions and cultural values, and encourages cordial dealings between citizens and respects the country's legacy.
- We appeal to the moral conscience of those who work in communications so that they may accent whatever builds peace and refrain from fostering violence, rumor and prejudice which lead to a "culture of suspicion" and cause the breakdown of family and society.
- We feel impelled to look with new eyes on our indigenous brothers and sisters, acknowledging their dignity in our everyday dealings, respecting their culture, and appreciating their ability to enrich our national identity with their values. We exhort them to trust in themselves and not to expect everything from government institutions and the rest of society.
- We feel that we must encourage reconciliation between poor and rich, indigenous people and mestizos, political parties, government officials, and citizens, so that there may be forgiveness in place of hatred, and a fraternal spirit instead of confrontation. To that end we exhort all our fellow citizens to unite in common action to overcome this crisis and bring to bear our highest values.
- We issue a call to the parties involved in the peace process in Chiapas to renew the dialogue for peace. We ask them to devote every effort to avoiding armed conflict and to come to agreements leading to a worthy peace. The justice, freedom, democracy, and dignity that we all demand are pressing us toward dialogue and reconciliation.
- At this difficult and hope-filled hour in the history of our country, it is more important than ever that we find inspiration and encouragement in the words of Our Lady, the Virgin of Guadalupe, "My child be assured that what worries and afflicts you is of no account. Am I not here, I who am your Mother?"
- As in other difficult moments in our national life we must draw from our filial trust in Our Lady the strength to remake ourselves and to forge our history. We must strengthen our faith in the Resurrection of Christ in order to announce that if Christ is alive in our church and in our Mexican homeland, the grave challenges of the present will not be able to extinguish the power of love and reconciliation.
- This is our conviction, the assurance that we want to instill in the hearts of all, the contribution that we offer as pastors in order to foster justice, reconciliation and peace in Mexico.
Cuautitlán Izcalli, Mexico April 15, 1994