Monday, March 29, 2010

Another side of the bishop

The bishop of Santa Rosa de Copán, Monseñor Luis Alfonso Santos, is known for his outspoken advocacy for the poor and for justice, based in the Gospel call for conversion.

His Palm Sunday homily was characteristic. “The Kingdom of God has already arrived, but how do we build it up? accepting Jesus and trying to change your lives. And if you don’t change your ways of living, Catholicism is only a story,” he said.

He also pleaded with the people not to accept the yokes being imposed on them, recalling the proposal of taxes on rents and on universities as well as some proposals to raise the value-added-tax (the hidden sales tax) from its current rate of 12%.

He castigated the rule of the rich, having noted that the goods of the earth are for all. He urged the people to change their ways of thinking and to stop believing in lying leaders and false promises.

He strongly critiqued the two major parties who’ve been part of 120 years of oppression. And he recalled the coups he’s experienced in his lifetime, noting that they have often been justified as responses to communism or, as in last year’s coup, to "twenty first century socialism." "Everyone who wants to do something for the poor experiences a coup," he lamented.

A delegation from Pax Christi International is visiting Honduras and was here in Santa Rosa. They heard his homily and afterwards they went out for lunch with him. The bishop met us outside the cathedral and we walked to the restaurant.

As we walked by the cathedral the bishop walked over to a poor man sitting on the pavement, talked with him, and gave him a donation.

In the restaurant a little boy came up trying to sell us trinkets. He had sold us a few erasers while waiting for the bishop in the park. But now he had some little flashlights that he was selling for 10 lempiras, about 55 cents.

Hector told us he was 13 years old, but he was no taller than most seven year olds I know. He was also very timid and seemed to be a little developmentally disabled intellectually. The effects of chronic malnutrition were obvious.

The bishop spoke with Hector, looked at his trinkets, told him about the lunch program for kids the diocese has, and bought one of the tiny flashlights. He also bought the kid a sandwich.

The bishop’s tender care for the poor old man and for the little kid touched me deeply. Here’s a man with a strong public position for justice who also takes time to be kind and compassionate to God’s little ones.

Oh, that we might have more bishops like him!

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