Monday, May 9, 2016

Social Ministry Open Letter

Open letter
to the people of Honduras
and to the government of the Republic of Honduras

“Scientific progresses most extraordinary, the most surprising technical achievements, the most remarkable economic advancement , if they are not accompanied by a authentic and moral progress will definitively turn against the human person.”
Pope Francis, “Discourse to the FAO”

“An attempt [on the life of whatever defender of human rights is an attempt on all of us.”
Letter of the Vatican to the family of Berta Cáceres

In the Assembly of the Social Ministry Assembly of the Catholic Church, with representatives of the nine dioceses of Honduras, from April 19 to 21 in Comayagua, gathered to analyze our pastoral activity in regard to the social commitment of the Church, illuminated by the Gospel and Jesus Christ, the teaching of the Church, and letting ourselves to be called to account by the reality, we declare the following:

Our hopes:
  •       The growing taking of consciousness of the social problematic by pastoral workers and their commitment with social organizations, their work close with their struggles and defense of the common goods, who illuminate the reality of death from the [standpoint of the] Gospel.
  •       The integration of the church, accompanying the organizing processed of the communities.
  •       The successes which have been made in the defense of the goods of creation and social demands [reivindicacciones].
  •       The growing organization of indigenous and campesino organizations in defense of Life, especially in the defense of the rivers and forests.

Our concerns:
  •       The approval of laws which favor megaprojects (Open pit mining, ZEDES [model cities], hydroelectric [projects], monocultivation) trampling the rights of communities. Generating conflicts and violence. This option of the government for large scale extractive industries hoards, consumes, and contaminates the vital liquid of the communities.
  •       The violation of agreement 169 of the OIT [International Labor Organization] which refers to the respect for the territories, culture, and patrimony of indigenous peoples.
  •        Migration of children and youth in the communities, forced by violence.
  •       The deterioration of the health and public education institution[s] concerns us.
  •       The deterioration security and the increasing militarization of the Honduran society which has not responded in the face of the violence.
  •       The criminalization, persecution, and killing of defenders of human and environmental rights
  •       Institutionalized corruption in all government levels.

We encourage the people
  •      To maintain hope and continue believing in the strength of organization in unity for the defense of life, territory and the goods of creation.
  •       So that the electoral process which is approaching does not sidetrack us from the care and defense of life and our Common Home.

We ask the government
  •       To clear up the assassination of Berta Cáceres, seeking an international independent investigative commission.
  •       To clear up all the assassinations of defenders of human rights and the goods of creation.
  •       The help of La Misión de Apoyo Contra la Corrupción e Impunidad en Honduras (MACCIH) [the Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras] in working against corruption and impunity in cases of national seriousness.
  •        End the mining concessions and megaprojects that make life worse in Honduras.

We close this letter reiterating our hopeful commitment and confirming our being disciples of Jesus in the accompaniment of the Honduran people in their joys, sorrows, hopes and struggles for Life and our Common Home.

Participants in the National Social Ministry Assembly

April 2016

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Statement of the Choluteca Diocese

Statement of the Diocese of Choluteca [Honduras]

In an ordinary meeting, we, the clergy of Choluteca joined with our bishop, in the House of Youth, on June 16, 2015, reflected, as pastors, over the reality which our country is going through in general and in particular in the southern zone. With concern we see the following situations:

1. Corruption: this has been a scourge from which we have been suffering in our society, but which has now arrived at a horrifying situation, at the price of the suffering of poor people and bringing as a consequence the loss of many human lives. This has provoked indignation in our society.

2. The impunity: The people perceive that little or nothing has been done, although they know who have been plundering the country. The law has not been applied in an effective manner that makes the guilty return what they robbed and punishing them. This has caused the increase of insecurity in our country.

3. Lack of trust in institutions. Because they have not responded effectively to the just demands of the poor people, for which they have been created, but rather to the interests of those persons who have put them in their positions they hold.

4. Development, yes – but not yes. Our people needs development and we are conscious of this, but not as it appears in the south, at the cost of the deterioration of our environment. If development is not human, it is not true development.

5. The situation of starvation. For the lack of a rainy season, we are coming near to a difficult situation for our people, due to the destruction of the environment and of nature. Facing this, as pastors, we ask the government authorities that they concern themselves for our people without politicizing the aid, so that the aid reaches the needy persons immediately.

In the face of this reality the Word of God and the Teaching of the Church illumine us:
·      “I have seen and heard the oppression of my people and have come down to liberate them, says the Lord.” Exodus 3, 7-8. God accompanies his people and walks with them; he is not distant from human suffering.
·      “Jesus tells us that the Sabbath was made for humans and not humans for the Sabbath.” Mark 2, 23-28. Institutions are at the service of all persons and not for the advantage of a few. The option for life and for the poor cannot be abandoned.[1]
·      Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium, no. 202, tells us: “The need to resolve the structural causes of poverty cannot be delayed, not only for the pragmatic reason of its urgency for the good order of society, but because society needs to be cured of a sickness which is weakening and frustrating it, and which can only lead to new crises.”
·      A society which in all its levels wishes positively to be at the service of the human person is one in which the common good is proposed as a priority, respecting the good of all men [and women] and of each one.” Compendium of the Social Teaching of the Church, no. 165.

In the face of what has been explained, we conclude the following:
We ask that the struggle against corruption and impunity be depoliticized.
We demand that respect for life and the common good be respected.
We ask that in all the social strata of society be offered formation in values: ethical, moral, civic, and Christian.
We animate all our brothers [and sisters] to struggle together for peace and justice we our people so longs for.
We encourage all to participate actively and responsibly in building a country where one lives with dignity and where their rights are respected.

We ask our Lord Jesus Christ to illumine us and we ask the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, patroness of our diocese of Choluteca, to intercede for us.

Released in the city of Choluteca, in the department of Choluteca, on June 16, 2015.

The bishop signs in the name of all the clergy


[1] My translation of inclaudicable, a word I could not find in my dictionaries.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Honduran bishops on current crisis

Dialogue for Peace in the Society
“Blessed are those who work for peace” (Matthew 5:9)

Our Country is stirred up in the face of so much corruption, violence, hunger, and impunity. For quite some time, many of us Hondurans have come denouncing social injustice.

The Church has raised its voice in many occasions through the Bishops’ Conference, bishops and priests in their dioceses, [those who live] the Consecrated Life and faithful lay Christians, speaking prophetic word, denouncing so much sin, and announcing the Reign of God where justice, respect for the life and dignity of human beings, the promotion of the common good, and the inclusion of the neediest might become a reality.

We cannot be indifferent in the face of the cry of a people who weeps for those who have died by so much violence, who suffer poverty for lack of employment, and who see their children leave in a migration which separates families and uproots people from their faith and their culture, a migration which is forced because there is nothing to eat or death by homicide stalks them, devouring each day many Hondurans.

Therefore, we as members of the Bishops’ Conference, representing the Catholic people, pilgrims here in Honduras, we unite ourselves with all those who struggle for a better Honduras and we proclaim that there cannot be peace without social justice, fraternity without reconciliation, solidarity without compassion for the poorest, social harmony without eradicating impunity, nor progress without throwing out the corruption which does so much evil to all of us.

In a country where many moral, judicial, and labor rules have been broken, for the purpose of benefiting a few who unduly enrich themselves, we believe that one must follow the courageous path of eradicating organized crime, delinquency, and drug consumption which causes so much destruction for the young and their families.

The institutional strengthening of the State is urgent and necessary, especially the Public Ministry[1]. We cannot be quiet in the face of the sad case of Social Security[2] in which thousands were and still are victims. We also cannot be silent in the face of the unfinished purification of the National Police, in the face of hired assassins, extortion, or the badly-named war tax,[3] which so many of the population suffer.

In whatever democracy, the only way to solve differences is dialogue, which is open, respectful, and sincere, with capacity for listening and which provides concrete and verifiable solutions which benefit society. All of us should assume our share of mutual responsibility in this critical moment of our history. We are grateful that the international community wishes to accompany us in this process, respecting our sovereignty and proper values.

We have learned from the Gospel of Jesus Christ and from the Social Doctrine of the Church that the way to attain the dignity of the human person and the inclusion of the poorest – the disposables as Pope Francis puts it – consists in living with a heart infinitely merciful who makes the option to save all and which, without rejecting anyone, seeks the Reign of God.

Honduran Bishops’ Conference
Tegucigalpa, 2 July 2015

[1] El Ministerio Público (the Public Ministry) is responsible for advocating for the victims of crimes. (Note of the translator.)
[2] The Honduran Social Security Institute (IHSS) is responsible for the health needs of Honduran  workers. (Note of the translator.)
[3] Several of the gangs impose a war tax on businesses where they are or demand a “war tax” from bus and taxi companies. (Note of the translator.)
 The original can be found here:

Monday, July 14, 2014

Choluteca bishop on mining disaster

14 July 2014
Communiqué of the bishop of Choluteca

In the wake of the tragedy which occurred on July 2 in an artesanal mine in San Juan Arriba in the municipality of El Corpus, I wish to communicate the following:

I thank God for the miners who managed to emerge healthy and safe from this accident. I also grieve deeply for the disappearance of 8 miners and extend my sincere sympathy to the grieving families. All the People of God pray for them, is in solidarity with them, and wishes them peace and Christian  forbearance in these moments of sorrow in which it has not been possible to find the mortal remains of their beloved and give them a Christian burial.

In my opinion, I believe that these deeds merit a more profound reflection.
It came to public light that between 4,000 and 5,000 people in the zone have work related with mining; thus they seek to sustain their families. Apart from mining, there are very few sources of work there. Since it is a mountainous zone, agriculture is not very profitable. The people feel obliged to risk their lives in the mine, for a salary which varies between 200 and 300 lempiras a day ($10-$15) Instead of emigrating or going into crime, these mine workers are humble people who earn their livelihood in an honest manner and for this they deserve our respect. It is urgent that the government and the private business sector promote other sources of work in this zone.

Last year, two miners lost their lives, buried in the same mine. At that time the authorities suspended the permit for the mine to function. Nevertheless, it continued operating illegally, with the consequences that we now see.  From this day forward, the mining authority has to keep watch for compliance with the measures it orders.  In addition, it has to watch for the protection and security of workers in the mine, exercising a better control over artisanal mines.

The new Mining Law does not have a prevision for the case of artisanal mines. The national Congress has to modify that law to assure above all the protection and security of the mine workers.

For the Catholic Church, the human person is the image of God. The person is worth more than all the gold in the world. The dignity of every person ought to be protected and defended. Therefore, the Church also promotes and defends human life in all its forms. Human life is worth more than money. Jesus said, “What is it worth for a human person to gain the whole world is he loses his life? What price will be paid for life? (Matthew 16:26)

It is urgent to have a deep reflection on open pit mines which bring many dire consequences for the communities that live near theses mines, for the health of people and animals, for the water sources and for the environment. God gave us the earth to care for and cultivate (Genesis 2:15), not to destroy it. Before handing over a concession for operating a mine, I ask the mayors of the municipalities in my diocese to carry out the Mining Law, providing for a full and transparent consultation with all the communities which will be affected by this mine.

Finally, I ask God to illumine all of us so that we c]may seek the best manner of developing out country, benefiting all the people and all the communities. We ask this with the intercession of our Mother the Virgin of Suyapa.

+Bishop Guido Charbonneau

Choluteca, Honduras

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The original Spanish can be found here.

Joint Declaration of Bishops on child migrants

My unofficial translation of a document on the child migrant status. I made this hasty translation since I could not find a translation in English.
Mexico City, July 10 2014
CEM B. 142 / 2014
Profoundly moved by the suffering of thousands of children and adolescents who have migrated from Central America and Mexico to the United States and who now find themselves waiting to be deported, we, the bishops of the United States, Mexico, El Salvador, and Honduras, moved by the love of Christ, let all of them and their families know of our prayer, solidarity, and commitment.
These children left their countries pushed by the misery, the violence, or the desire to be reunited with their parents or family members who have migrated and, after confronting every type of deprivation and danger, now are living a terrible humanitarian crisis. This dramatic situation affects all of us and makes us commit ourselves to “globalize solidarity,” recognizing, respecting, promoting and defending the life, dignity, and rights of every person, independent of their condition as migrants.
In this sense we look hopefully on the Extraordinary Declaration of Managua, in which the member countries of the Regional Conference on Migration – Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, the Untied States, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and the Dominican Republic – have recognized their regional co-responsibility and have committed themselves to implement comprehensive and articulated measures to guarantee the better interests of the child and adolescent, as well as family unity; to disseminate precise information in regard to the “dangers of the voyage: and the non-existence of “permit” for those who arrive in the United States; to struggle against the organized criminal groups of illegal trafficking and trafficking of persons; and to improve migration practices.
An important aspect of the Declaration is the joint commitment to eradicate the structural causes which provoke the irregular migration of underage children, creating programs of social and economic development in the communities of origin, as well as programs of reinsertion and reintegration for those who return. Also, they recognize that these child and adolescent migrants could obtain the status of refugees or a like [complimentary] protection. 
In this tenor, it is positive that Mexico has implemented the Coordination for Comprehensive Attention to Migration in the Southern Border and the creation of Centers of Comprehensive Attention to Border Movement in order to facilitate the secure admission of persons and goods, and to avoid the problems that have come to be because of the migration disorder in the zone.
The Catholic Church, which has for many years been advocating with the governmental authorities of the US, Mexico, and Central America on behalf of migrants, will continue this labor. It will also continue working in human promotion, especially of the children, families, and the poorest, to restore the social fabric and offer welcome, attention, and services to migrants in the numerous centers created for them. The Church expresses its willingness to collaborate in order to make real the agreements of the Declaration of Managua, convinced that a policy of dissuasion without national and international guarantees is ineffective and inhumane.
 Therefore, we support the request that Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, Texas, has formulated to the Migration Committee of the US House of Representatives to issue a declaration of a humanitarian crisis to give a comprehensive response to the problem, which create public policies which provide basic services and protection to migrants, examining the roots of the exodus of migrants, assigning federal resources to invest in the countries from which these migrants come in order to avoid the need to migrate, and providing programs of family reunification for migrants.
We bishops, your servants, reiterate the urgency of respecting the human dignity of the undocumented migrants; of strengthening governmental institutions so that they may be authentically democratic, participative, and at the service of the people;  of combatting firmly the reprehensible activity of criminal groups and of organized crime whose inhuman action we strongly condemn; of guaranteeing the security of citizens; and of investing in Central America.  In this sense, we call upon business owners, especially Catholics, to investing and contribute to the promotion of justice and equity. We urge parents to not put their children in danger of undertaking the dangerous journey to Mexico and the United Sates. And we ask society in general to assume the role which it has in this sorrowful problem.
In the face of the humanitarian drama which we are suffering, we ought to listen to Pope Francis who with a profound realism has warned: “Today in many places there is a cry for greater security. But until the exclusion and inequality within a society and between different peoples is not changed, it will be impossible to eradicate violence… It is evil crystalized in unjust social structures, starting from which a better future cannot be hoped for… Inequality is the root of social ills.”
Imploring the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas, we ask our Lord Jesus Christ to protect our children and their families in this difficult moment and to give all of us the wisdom to find workable solutions, and the boldness and strength to act accordingly.

+Óscar A. Cardenal Rodríguez Maradiaga,S.D.B.
Archbishop of Tegucigalpa
President of the Honduran Bishops Conference

+J. Francisco Cardenal Robles Ortega
Archbishop of Guadalajara      
President of the Mexican Bishops Conference

+Romeo Tovar Astorga
Bishop of Santa Ana
General Secretary of the El Salvadoran Bishops Conference

+Eugenio Lira Rugarcía
Auxiliary Bishop of Puebla
Secretary General of the Mexican Bishops Conference

+ Domingo Buezo Leiva
Bishop Vicar of Izabal
Secretary General of the Guatemalan Bishops Conference

+ Eusebio Elizondo
Bishop of Seattle
President of the Committee on Migration and Refugees of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops

+ Guillermo Ortíz Mondragón
Bishop of Cuautitlán
President of the Pastoral Section of the Ministry of Human Mobility of the Mexican Bishops Conference


Original in Spanish here.
The original can also be found on the web page of the Conferencia del Episcopado Méxicano here.