Murdered Guatemalan bishop remembered for peace efforts

Guatemala City, Guatemala, Apr 30, 2013 / 01:12 pm (CNA).- During a Mass to commemorate the 15th anniversary of Bishop Juan Jose Gerardi’s death, Archbishop Oscar Julio Vian of Guatemala City recalled the late bishop as a “martyr of peace.”

The Mass was celebrated upon conclusion of a document about the violence caused by the Guatemalan civil war from 1960-1996. Numerous bishops and priests from the country concelebrated.

“He fought to build a more just and decent society” and “sought peace through truth and justice,” Archbishop Vian said during the Mass at the Cathedral of Guatemala City.

He urged Guatemalans to leave behind fear, pessimism and frustration and to keep alive the memory of Bishop Gerardi in their hearts.

Bishop Gerardi was murdered in the garage of his residence at St. Sebastian’s Parish, located just 200 yards from the government headquarters, on April 26, 1998. His death came two days after he presented a report on human rights violations during the country’s civil war. Most of the atrocities were attributed to the Guatemalan army.

Two soldiers and a priest, Father Mario Orantes, were convicted in his murder and sentenced to 20 years in prison. In 2012, all three were released after completing half of their sentences.

Last Tuesday, Bishop Gerardi’s remains were exhumed from the Cathedral crypt and will be interred again at a small chapel at St. Sebastian’s for pastoral reasons, as the crypt is too small to host the large number of pilgrims who come to pay homage to the late bishop.

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