Salvador Bishop Applauds Guatemalan Judges

Says Gerardi-Murder Trial Was Handled Well

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SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador, JUNE 11, 2001 ( Archbishop Fernando Saenz Lacalle of San Salvador referred to the “distressing” conviction of a priest as an accomplice in the murder of Bishop Juan Gerardi in neighboring Guatemala.

But he praised the judges who decided on the conviction.

“It is very distressing; only God knows what happened,” Archbishop Saenz Lacalle said in a press conference Sunday. “Justice is involved and it seems there are proofs.”

Father Mario Orantes and three Guatemalan military men were sentenced Friday for their roles in the April 1998 murder of the auxiliary bishop. The priest had been the bishop´s assistant.

Father Orantes was sentenced to 20 years in prison. The military men received longer sentences, for murder.

“It is distressing, and anyone who commits a crime, merits an imposed punishment,” Archbishop Saenz Lacalle said at the end of Sunday Mass in the capital´s cathedral.

He highlighted the “courage on the part of the judges who gave the sentence.”

“Two weeks ago Pope John Paul II himself called for a thorough clarification of the truth,” Archbishop Saenz Lacalle observed. “I think the trial was handled well, with clear evidence and witnesses.”

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