Guatemala Getting Ready for Canonization of Pedro de Betancur

Bishops Issue Statement Anticipating Papal Visit

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GUATEMALA CITY, MARCH 10, 2002 ( John Paul II´s visit to Guatemala to canonize Pedro de San José de Betancur is a chance for the country to give witness to its faith, say the nation´s bishops.

In a statement announcing the Holy Father´s visit July 31-Aug. 1, the bishops say the event is a chance for the Central American nation to follow the example of de Betancur, the founder of the Bethlemite Brothers and Sisters.

Pedro de Betancur will be “the first Central American saint,” the bishops write. In fact, he was born in Vilaflor, in the Canary Islands of Spain, on Sept. 18, 1626. He went to Guatemala when he was 24 as a lay missionary and when he arrived, said: “I want to live and die here.”

A serious illness put this member of the Third Order of St. Francis in direct contact with the poorest and most disinherited in Guatemala. Recovering his health unexpectedly, de Betancur became the apostle of captives. He was also the protector of Indians, emigrants, and orphaned and abandoned children.

“Thanks to Brother Pedro, it is possible to say that after some 100 years of Christian faith, there were already fruits of holiness in our land,” the bishops say.

The last part of the episcopal text gives recommendations for preparations for John Paul II´s third visit to Guatemala.

Following the example of the future saint, the Church in Guatemala proposes “renewed hearing and meditation of the Word,” and insists that believers must “intensify their commitment of faith within the Christian community to which they belong, doing away with the divorce between faith and life,” and giving "witness of Christian identity in all social ambiences, including those of study, work and the family, in order to transform them.”

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