A Pilgrimage in Chiapas with Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia

Blase Bonpane



the wake of the Pope’s visit to Mexico the press has been full of announcements

about the death of liberation theology. Our recent experience in Chiapas

indicated that such announcements are premature and marked by misinformation.



Samuel Ruiz Garcia


traveled in caravan with Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia, Bishop Raul Vera Lopez and

Bishop Herbert Hermes through conflictive areas of Ocosingo, Comitan and Tila.

The Mexican government contributed bodyguards for the local bishops but this

offered little peace of mind. The government itself has been among Bishop Ruiz’s

greatest adversaries. We kept thinking, "Who is going to guard the

guards?" Military and paramilitary aggression continues to make life in

Chiapas a nightmare for indigenous citizens.





does this have to do with liberation theology? The phrase was developed as a

response to imperial theology which has been dominant for centuries. Contrary to

popular media misinformation, the theology of liberation neither promotes

violence, nor Marx, nor class struggle. Class struggle is not fomented, it is

simply a reality when some earn $10. per month and others do not earn but rather

receive $1,000,000 per month. Such a theology does not create class struggle, it

simply identifies what already exists. Such a theology does not create violence,

it identifies the institutional violence of a corrupt system.


will indicate that Pope John Paul II did not respond positively to liberation

theology any more than Pope Urban VIII responded well to Galileo. Actually the

current pope has been an active foe of liberation theology and liberation

theologians. Members of the clergy like Father Ernesto Cardenal and Bishop Ruiz

have valiantly struggled to serve the poor of the earth. Their efforts have

received negative attention from the Vatican. In spite of such tensions Pope

John Paul II made strong statements against unregulated capitalism

(neo-liberalism) greed and multinational domination of the world economy. Our

hope is that his deeds will follow his words.


theology is at once a denunciation of the horrors of imperial theology which

gave us the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Conquistadores and God-is-on-our-side

nationalism. Liberation theology is not a fad. It is a conviction for the

believer that identification with the true God requires liberation from

oppression. On the contrary, support for oppression is to worship false gods or

idols. It seems to me that what has been called liberation theology in the

waning days of the 20th century will simply be called theology in the 21st






theology is not focused on human, civil, ecclesiastical mandates like clerical

celibacy. Demanding social justice is far more important than demanding clerical



theological clarity will show reverence and study of the world’s many cultural

and religious expressions and not waste energy on considering "the

other" as adversary. Implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human

Rights is far more important than meaningless efforts to "prove"

doctrinal claims.


us identify racial, religious and ethnic separatism as what it is; ignorance.

Science affirms the claim that there is only one race, the human race. Any other

delineation of humanity should be categorized as superstition.


will not be excluded from any function in church or state. Small groups will

reflect on the needs of society and project their objectives from the base to

local and global coordination.


principle of subsidiarity will be implemented. Each unit of society will have a

reasonable autonomy. Starting with the autonomy of the family and continuing to

the need for international law and order to deal with threats to peace, justice,

environmental degradation and aggression. Distributive justice is an attainable



objective is to identify one human family attempting to live together

harmoniously on a small planet. Such an objective may not be accomplished in the

21st century but with your help we can at least get started.


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