ON THE CANONIZATION OF THE FIRST NATIVE AMERICAN
Bishops’ Commission for the Pastoral Care of Indigenous Peoples,
Bishops' Commission for Social Assistance
Reflections of Mexican bishops' Commissions for Indigenous Peoples, Social Welfare
On 3 July, the Bishops' Commissions for Indigeneous Peoples and for Social Welfare published a Message on the occasion of the Pope's fifth visit to Mexico for the Canonization of Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin on 31 July and the Beatification of the Martyrs of Oaxaca, Juan Bautista and Jacinto de los Angeles on 1 August. The Bishops speak about the task of inculturation: "It is a great joy to celebrate the canonization and beatification of our indigenous brothers, for we know that the recognition of their person entails the recognition of the indigenous as peoples. The inculturation of the Gospel brings out the riches of each culture, of each people, in which we clearly see the work of God's Spirit who acts always and everywhere". The Bishops also call for the inclusion of the indigenous peoples in the social and economic developments that are now underway in Mexico. "Nevertheless, on the present national scene, we are concerned to see the exclusion of many impoverished brothers and sisters, including the indigenous peoples. The idea that 'outside the free market there is no salvation' is becoming dominant. The forces that are changing the relationship of rights and duties at the international level are the business or investment treaties that grant ample rights to foreign investors without asking, in exchange the same duties of the countries that benefit from the investments. The long-term planning of development and investment projects in regions with a strong indigenous presence such as the south-east of our country, is sometimes done by international financial organizations with no participation of local personnel or companies, and with no consideration for the indigenous communities. The Mexican nation owes it to the indigenous peoples to create a new relationship between government, society and indigenous peoples, based on respect and inclusion". Here are key sections of the Message of the Bishops' Commissions translated from the original Spanish text.
To the People of God and to all men and women of good will.
1. We address to you words of hope and encouragement at this moment that is charged with the grace of God because the canonization and beatification of ourindigenous brothers fosters the evangelization process in our own country.
2. The fifth visit of His Holiness John Paul II, encourages us asChurch, People of God,to be confirmed in the faith and in following Our Lord Jesus Christ in this land of Mexico, blessed by the special protection of Our Lady of Guadalupe. She showed us her love by taking our own dark features, thereby giving us "a great example of perfectly inculturated evangelization" (Addressto the Bishops of Latin America,12 October 1992, n. 24, ORE;21 October 1992, p. 9).
3. It is a great joy tocelebrate the canonization and beatification of our indigenous brothers, for we knowthat the recognition of theirperson entailstherecognition of the indigenous as peoples. The inculturation of the Gospel brings out the riches of each culture, of each people, in which we clearly see the work of God's Spirit who acts always and everywhere.
Need to recognize the emergence of the indigenous peoples
4. As part of the Church, which we are, we greatly desire that this recognition also include the process in which the indigenous have emerged as the subjects of their own history; for although Indios peoples are ancient by reason of their existence, they are recent by reason of their coming to the fore. With John Paul II, we affirm that "in defending [their] dignity [the indigenous peoples] are not only exercising [their] right; [they] are also fulfilling [their] duty to hand on [their] culture to future generations, thus enriching the whole of society"(Message to Indigenous Peoples,12 October1992, n. 4; ORE,21 October1992, p. 3).
Society has to appreciate indigenous peoples and their culture
5. The ecclesial event of the canonization and beatification of our indigenous brothers fills us with joy, since their recognition by the universal Church means that they are an example which can help us return to our origins and the Indian roots of our people. We can all identify with their experience and, like them, if we live as ambassadors of God and of the Virgin in solidarity with the poor, we can reach Christ and God.
6. The Guadalupe event is for all Mexicans a horizon for our culture and identity as a people. Yet we must recognize that for the indigenous peoples it has a special importance, since in the Message of Our Lady of Guadalupe, it is the Indian who is the agent, he is the one she asks to "speakin her name";she tells him that he is her "trustworthy ambassador" and that she wants her house to be built where the people grieve, where she can "hear their miseries, their sufferings and their sorrows", since she wants "to remedy all this", her love is for all the dark ones of these lands.
Guadalupe vindicates the place of the poor for a more just nation
7. The Guadalupe Message vindicates the place of the poor and marginalized in building a more just and fraternal nation. God manifests himself in the poor urging everyone to build a new society in which all may be heard and included. This is the real emphasis of the Church today: to build every community with ecclesial communion, solidarity and brotherhood. In this task, many pastoral workers, especially Indios, have played a leading role, and we express our gratitude to them since it is they who keep alive their peoples' hope.
Social justice and economic progress
8. Nevertheless, on the present national scene, we are concerned to see the exclusion of many impoverished brothers and sisters, including the indigenous peoples. The idea that "outside the free market there is no salvation" is becoming dominant. The forces that are changing the relationship of rights and duties at the international level are the business or investment treaties that grant ample rights to foreign investors without asking, in exchange, the same duties of the countries that benefit from the investments. The long-term planning of development and investment projects in regions with a strong indigenous presence, such as the south-east of our country, is sometimes done by international financial organizations with no participation of local personnel or companies, and with no consideration for the indigenous communities. The Mexican nation owes it to the indigenous peoples to create a new relationship between government, society and indigenous peoples, based on respect and inclusion.
9. We therefore appeal to all society no longer to postpone the delayed recognition of the rights and culture of the Indios peoples. We must change our criteria and our way of thinking of them. We must change from viewing them as a mere object of our generosity and benevolence to begin seeing them as peoples and individuals who need what justice entitles them to today: to be the subjects of rights.
10. In different messages, the Magisterium of the Church has spoken out in favour of the recognition of every people's culture. Indeed, the Mexican Bishops said in our Pastoral Letter that "the sovereignty of a people is fully and originally rooted in the personality of a society and a nation" (Bishops' Conference of Mexico, Carta Pastoral del Encuentro con Jesucristo a la Solidaridad con todos, Mexico 2000, n. 277).
Resolve constitutional questions
11. Despite the consensus reached by the executive and legislative authorities for making reforms to our Magna Carta which recognizes indigenous cultures and rights, for many of these peoples the results have been far from satisfactory. This is why we are disposed to dialogue and look forward to the resolution by the nation's Supreme Court of Justice of the constitutional controversies presented by indigenous peoples.
Peace process: 10 steps
12. To guarantee the re-establishment of the peace process in our country, it is necessary to respond to the basic requests of the indigenous peoples. We have no desire for any further bloodshed. We hope that the process of peace and dialogue is resumed. We convoke all Mexicans to work for: 1) recognition of the indigenous rights and cultures; 2) a wider dissemination, through the media, of those aspects of indigenous ethics that are of universal value and compatible with the Christian message; 3) support of the education of indigenous children in their own communities and languages, so that they are not uprooted from their own cultures and history; 4) the promotion of ways to sustain their organizations for production and for introducing their products on the market; 5) the support of their cases with the authorities at all levels, as well as guaranteeing that justice is procured for them and imparted to them in their own language; 6) the creation in the rest of the country of public consciousness of their individual history and contributions; 7) the protection of their knowledge of nature, which is being abused by transnational laboratories for the development of research that will produce patents; 8) the promotion of the productive organization of the indigenous peoples, and studies that extend knowledge of their recourses and of the options they have for economic development; 9) the creation of programmes involving young Indios and their support so that they will return to their own communities and promote economic, cultural and social development; 10) the protection of their habitat and the preservation of their cultural values, in the face of projects that envisage industrial areas and agricultural activities that threaten to destroy forests and jungles and pollute the environment in which the indigenous peoples live.
13. We commend our efforts to the God of Life who wants life in abundance for everyone. Confident in the intercession of Blessed Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, we want to accompany our people in their search for better living conditions.
Mexico, Federal District,
3 July 2002.
Bishops' Commission for the Pastoral
Care of Indigenous Peoples
Bishops' Commission for Social Assistance
Weekly Edition in English
31 July 2002, page 10
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