Papal Envoy Visits Mexican State of Chiapas

Cardinal Etchegaray Urges Purification of Ancient Traditions

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

SAN JUAN CHAMULA, Mexico, JAN. 13, 2002 ( A special envoy sent by John Paul II to Chiapas urged the inhabitants of the troubled Mexican state to strengthen and purify their ancient traditions.

Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, former president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said he came to San Juan Chamula to deliver a message from the Pope on reconciliation in Chiapas, where the Zapatista rebels launched an uprising in 1994 in the name of Indian rights.

The village — where worshippers mix Catholic and Indian rites, including healing rituals — also has been hit by religious tensions.

During his visit Saturday, celebrated with candles, pine leaves, posh (a traditional alcoholic drink) and incense, Cardinal Etchegaray spent time with the peoples of Chiapas and then went to Zinacantan.

«A community like this lives joyfully when it experiences communion and reconciliation,» the French Basque cardinal told a gathering of Tzozil Indians in this hamlet 450 miles southeast of Mexico City.

In this community of rural workers and women knitters, located on the outskirts of the colonial city of San Cristobal de las Casas, the cardinal witnessed signs of political tension when he saw roads barricaded by Indian groups opposed to the present leaders.

At one point, a noisy crowd invaded the church during one of the cardinal´s meetings with Catholic faithful.

This poor Tzotzil community has long been controlled by «caciques,» or local chiefs. They have welded Indian and Catholic customs together in their worship and reject the outside world, at times including the Catholic hierarchy.

Bishop Felipe Arizmendi of the San Cristobal Diocese, who accompanied Cardinal Etchegaray during his visit, was not allowed to visit this community until last year. Regular celebrations of Sunday Mass have begun only in recent years.

Cardinal Etchegaray and Bishop Arizmendi´s visit showed that things have changed, said Father José Carmelo Jiménez, the local priest. People are now more open to the Catholic Church´s hierarchy, he explained.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation