Monday, September 07, 2009

Father Andres Tamayo
troublesome priest

One of my favorite plays and movies is Becket, about the martyred archbishop Thomas Becket. I even had a minor part in a high school production of the play.

Upset by the independence of the archbishop, English King Henry II cries out, “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?” Upon hearing this several of his soldiers go and kill Becket in Canterbury cathedral on December 29, 1170. His shrine became a major pilgrimage site in the middle ages. (I also recommend T. S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral, with the challenging couplet: “The last temptation is the greatest treason: to do the right thing for the wrong reason.”)

Micheletti’s de facto government is trying to get rid of a troublesome priest – not by assassinating him (though the priest has had death threats because of his environmental advocacy), but by revoking his citizenship and trying to throw him out of Honduras.

Father Andrés Tamayo is a Salvadoran by birth who has been ministering in Honduras for many years and is a naturalized Honduran. He has worked for many years in the protection of the environment, especially against the cutting of forests in the department of Olancho. An article on him (and the Santa Rosa de Copán bishop) appeared in Sierra magazine and can be found on the Sierra Club website.

Father Tamayo has been very active in the resistance against the coup, including marching with people from Olancho to Tegucigalpa. An article on his flight to avoid being captured by the Honduran forces was published by Catholic News Service. Father Tamayo has also talked about boycotting the November elections here in Honduras. Many nations of the world have said they would not recognize the elections if carried out under the de facto government. Even the US has placed conditions on accepting the results of the November elections.

Many look upon Father Tamayo as a sign of the church’s commitment with the poor and the environment. He has played this role in a very active, pubic way, and challenged the authorities.

However, the de facto government sees him as a dangerous priest. And so, last week they informed him that they were nullifying the act of his naturalization as a Honduran citizen. They want to expel him from Honduras, despite 22 years of ministry here.

I have no idea if this is legal, but it shows how undemocratic the de facto government is and how much it feels threatened by a person who has worked with organized people .

Padre Tamayo has noted that, because he would not leave his work with the people, he was being relieved of his parish in Salamá, Olancho. "The church forbids me to continue walking with the people. I am in the hands of the people; I belong to the people and I will continue walking with the people,” he said. I don’t know if he was disregarding his pastoral duties, but it is sad that he will no longer be officially ministering in his parish.

My prayers and hopes are that Padre Tamayo will continue to be able to continue to minister with the people of Olancho and Honduras – especially in support democracy and the environment.
Apologies (and thanks) to RAJ who used almost the same title on a blog entry on HondurasCoup2009 a few weeks ago.

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