Today about 50 people walked in procession from the Catholic Radio station in Santa Rosa to the Cathedral, carrying their bibles and singing. September 30 is the feast of St. Jerome, a translator of the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin, and so in Latin America today is sometimes celebrated among Catholics as the day of the Bible. Some churches celebrated the previous Sunday with processions in their towns and villages. (Protestants also celebrate the day of the Bible this month since the first Protestant Spanish version was also published in September.)
But, even though de facto president Micheletti is consulting sectors of the government to repeal his executive decree (virtually a state of siege) at an appropriate time, public meetings are still not allowed.
Using the decree as its legal basis the military removed about 50 campesinos from the National Agrarian Institute (INA). They have been there for a number of days presumably to prevent the coup government from ransacking the building in order to remove documents about land ownership which have not yet been adjudicated.
Today I heard of a public meeting that went off, without problems, on Monday in the town of Lepaera, in the department of Lempira. About 3000 participated in a peaceful anti-coup march and demonstration. The mayor called on the police in Gracias to send reinforcements which obviously were not needed. Despite this, the demonstration was a success and was followed by a Mass celebrated by the parish priest, Padre Estebán, a fiery priest who in June had been promoting the poll to set up a fourth ballot box in November to establish a Constituent Assembly (a type of Constitutional Convention) to rewrite the constitution.
The diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán is the only diocese that has taken a public position against the coup. The bishop has been outspoken and stated his intent to accompany pastorally the Resistance. During a recent television interview he was berated for his stance. I didn’t see the interview (since I don’t have a television.)
But the diocese has taken, with its communication of September 24, a firm stand against the coup. During the clergy study week, they looked at the present situation. the bishop looked at the current situation in relation to a sixty-nine day strike in 1954. (I need to do a quick course in Honduran history.) One phrase from their notes struck me - “We see the same problem in the 1954 strike and today – the traditional parties [the National and Liberal parties] do not support the strikes and the powerful repress the people and the means of communication.”
The priests and the bishops together also studied Pope Benedict XVI’s recent encyclical Caritas in veritate -Charity in Truth.
Beside issuing the communication, the priests made some suggestions for the work of the diocese including establishing a legal aid office, educating the people in Catholic Social Teaching, creating a school for education in politics and citizenship, creating a diocesan bulletin, spreading the theology of liberation from the standpoint of the Sacred Scriptures, and accompanying the people in their struggles for justice.
Thus the diocese will be issuing a bulletin twice a month to give people information and formation on the national reality from the perspective of faith. The Caritas Citizen Participation team will begin to do bi-monthly programs on the diocesan radio station on citizenship education.
Their project has been quite successful in forming leaders at the local level. But they are treating sensitive topics, especially these days. When we heard of the latest restrictions on human rights they asked the director to write the police to respect their work and not interfere in the work of the church.
But the work goes ahead. One of the program staff is scheduled to do a workshop with youth in one of the parishes. The first day will treat on themes of democracy and political participation. The second day, at the young people’s request, they will treat the question of drugs. The staff person is revising the materials developed by the national office of Caritas to make them more accessible. A small but important effort.
The work in political participation in this diocese is continuing, though there seems to be more hesitancy in some of the other Caritas offices. But interestingly, today a poster came from the national Caritas office.
When you participate there's democracy.
Interestingly an important question is whether Caritas will participate as observers in the November elections. I am almost certain that Caritas Santa Rosa will not, but I don't know about the other diocesan offices. We in Santa Rosa see that there are many ways to participate in democracy, especially at the local level.
I recall a remark made during the Salvadoran war by Monsignor Ricardo Urioste that helps put elections into perspective for me. "Elections are but one note in the symphony of democracy."
Notes about the wider church
Jesuit Father Ismael Moreo - Padre Melo – has been receiving death threats by text messages to the mobile phones of the radio station – Radio Progreso – which he directs. The messages offer half a million lempiras (about $26,500) for the head of Padre Melo.
He is not sure if they are a joke - a rather sick one, I’d say – or are meant to create “an adverse psychological environment, but in the context in which we live with grave threats to freedom of expression, to the means of communication and to all those who are opposed to the de facto [Micheletti] regime, in this moment when everything is controlled, I believe that you’ve got to take this type of message seriously.”
In an interview he added that “We hold responsible this government which finds itself cornered in an enclosure from which there is only one exit – the return as quickly as possible to constitutional rule to avoid greater harm.”
In Tegucigalpa it appears that auxiliary bishop Juan José Pineda is taking a larger role in the current crisis. It appears that he visited Zelaya in the Brazilian again on Sunday night and has also had contacts with Micheletti (There is also a report that the cardinal, back from Rome, visited Zelaya.)
Bishop Pineda noted that all Honduras want to be part of the solution, including members of the Resistance.
The bishop was quoted in a Honduran newspaper as giving his personal opinion “that the parties are still not prepared for a meeting but I believe that there are many ways they are coming close to dialogue [literally, rapprochements to dialogue].
“I believe,” he added, that a point of agreement continues to be (the dialogue of) San José [referring to the meetings in San José, Costa Rica, led by President Oscar Arias]. What happened in San José was a proposal, not an agreement, and I believe we ought to speak now of a San José II.”
I am not sure that is the way that President Arias would see the San José meetings, but that is what the bishop said.
A final word from the life of Saint Jerome:
While he was busy with his translation in his cave in Bethlehem, refugees fleeing the sack of Rome reached Jerusalem. Leaving aside his beloved work of translation he noted, “Today we must translate the word of scripture into deeds and, instead of speaking saintly words, we must act them.”