Friday, September 18, 2009

Monseñor Luis Alfonso Santos

Monseñor Santos is the bishop of the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán in western Honduras, the poorest diocese in the country.

For many years he has been outspoken in his concern for the poor - starting with the Salvadoran and Guatemalan refugees in the 1980s. He has spoken out against numerous injustices: open pit gold mining that uses cyanide leaching, drug-trafficking, and the rampant corruption in Honduras. It is thus not too surprising that he has been the only Honduran Catholic bishop to speak out openly against the coup.

I have read a recent Catholic News Service article on the bishop (which I have not yet encountered on the internet). A brief excerpt of it can be found in the Boston Pilot. The bishop sees his role, in relation to the Resistance to the soup, as providing "pastoral accompaniment, encouraging them spiritually to love God and their neighbor. My message is that faith in Jesus Christ and the love of God are necessary to confront the social injustice that reigns in Honduras and which has become more visible with the coup d'etat." He also told Catholic News Service Sept. 16 he would see "if an internal dialogue is possible" between "the Resistance" -- Hondurans who oppose the de facto government installed in a June 28 coup -- "and the economically powerful who are behind the coup."

I hope the full article becomes available on line since it provides a few new insights on the situation in Honduras.

However there are a number of articles now circulating that are, as far as I can tell, not factual. One report says that he said that the Pope is against the coup and the pope told him this at a 15 minute interview he had with the Pope in July.

I heard Bishop Santos speak last Sunday in La Esperanza, Intibucá, at a Mass after a March of the Resistance through the towns of Intibucá and La Esperanza in the department of Intibucá.

He noted that "We [the bishops] are not infallible." One may reject Cardinal Rodríguez's seeming support of the coup for he can make a mistake."

He then noted that last year he spoke privately with Pope Benedict XVI for 15 minutes. This was during the Honduran bishops' ad limina visit, which the bishops have to make every five years to report to the Vatican. Then he said that the Pope is in favor of the Honduran people, not in favor of the coup.

I take this as saying that the Pope has not expressed an opinion in favor of the coup; I don't believe it means that the Pope is against the coup.

The press has, I believe, misquoted the bishop. This has led at least one right-wing commentator, Gerardo Paredes, to call the bishop a liar in a vituperative blog entry.

I believe that Bishop Santos was trying to undercut the opinion that the Cardinal represents the whole Honduran church and that therefore one can assume that the pope supports the coup.

On July 12 - nine days after the Cardinal read the Honduran Bishops Conference statement on Honduran national television and radio - Pope Benedict XVI spoke of Honduras in his noon talk. It is a very pastoral message and avoids taking a position on the coup.
During these days I am following with active concern the events in Honduras.Today I want to invite you to pray for this dear country so that, with the motherly intercession of Our Lady of Suyapa, those who are responsible in that nation and all its inhabitants will travel the path of dialogue, of mutual understanding and reconciliation. This will be possible only if, overcoming particular [individual] inclinations, each one makes the effort to seek the truth and pursue the common good. This is the condition to assure a peaceful life together and an authentic democratic life! To the beloved Honduran people I assure them my prayers and I send them a special Apostolic Benediction.

The Pope's words do reflect the call for dialogue found in the July 3 Honduran Bishops Conference statement, but such a call is also found in the bishops' June 19 statement and a June 26 statement by the Jesuits' Radio Progreso and ERIC-SJ, both written before the coup, as well as in the July 2 Message of the Santa Rosa de Copán's Diocesan Pastoral Council, which is clearly against the coup.

I am glad the bishop is speaking out openly and courageously. Not everyone will agree with him - not even all of the priests in his diocese and definitely not all the Catholics in the diocese of Santa Rosa. The division in the diocese reflects the deep polarization that exists in the country.

But I believe that he, like others, has been misunderstood.

What I continue to pray for is a peace based in justice and truth, where the poor in Honduras have what they need to live decent lives and are able to participate freely in the economic and political decisions of their country.

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