Thursday, July 9, 2009

Some Colombian stories on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Chiquinquirá

Today we are celebrating Our Lady of Chiquinquirá, patroness of Colombia, and, coincidentally, I have accumulated a few Colombia-related stories to share:

1. The Colombian Bishops and President Uribe: This week brought the surprising news that several prominent Colombian bishops have suggested that Álvaro Uribe not seek a third term. These would include the Archbishop of Bogota, Cardinal Pedro Rubiano Sáenz, Msgr. Nel Beltrán, bishop of Sincelejo (Sucre), who cited the polarization and potential for increased violence in the country, Msgr. Julio César Vidal, bishop of Montería (Córdoba), and Msgr. Leonardo Gómez Serna, bishop of Magangué, who opined that it was time to give an opportunity to new people. The new secretary general of the Colombian Bishops Conference, Mons. Juan Vicente Córdoba Villota, hastened to assure the public that the Conference itself would not make any pronouncements about a potential Uribe third term until the president himself had decided whether he would run again or not. Any bishop who has spoken on the matter, he said, is acting "motu proprio". The former secretary general, Msgr. Fabián Marulanda, has told El Espectador that he does not think Uribe will run again and the fact that this interview is posted on the CEC Website tells us way more than the current secretary general's assertions. Muy interesante....

2. Fernando Rendón: As the 19th International Poetry Festival in Medellín is underway, its director and well-known Colombian poet Fernando Rendón finds himself under investigation for his political activities. 716 poets, artists and intellectuals from 111 countries have signed a statement of support for Rendón. Signatories include Nobel Literature Prize winners Derek Walcott (St. Lucia, 1992) and Elfriede Jelinek (Austria, 2004), famed Colombian novelist Laura Restrepo, the venerable American beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Juan Gelman, the Argentinian poet and winner of the Premio Cervantes, among others. Colombian Senator Gloria Inés Ramírez Ríos also offered a statement of support for the poet.

The suggestion that Rendón is complicit with terrorism is ironic, especially given the fact that his Festival de Poesía de Medellín convened an Encuentro Nacional de Arte y Poesía por la Paz de Colombia in 2007 at the time of the deaths of Fr. Hoyos' brother Jairo and the other lawmakers at the hands of the FARC and other incidents of violence in Colombia. The Encuentro issued the following broad public statement condemning all violence, whether by the FARC, the paramilitary groups, or the state:

Firme rechazo al cruel asesinato de once diputados del Valle del Cauca

El Festival Internacional de Poesía de Medellín, comprometido firmemente en la colectiva tarea hacia la búsqueda de la paz en Colombia, condena enérgicamente el cruel asesinato de los once diputados del Valle del Cauca en poder de las FARC en hechos injustificables sucedidos el pasado 18 de junio en las selvas colombianas, y apenas conocidos hace seis días, después que el presidente Uribe diera la orden de rescatarlos a sangre y fuego.

A la vez nuestro grupo de trabajo condena vigorosamente el secuestro practicado por las guerrillas colombianas, por los paramilitares y por el Estado colombiano, incluida la modalidad de las desapariciones, es decir secuestros sin posible retorno de las víctimas.

El Festival Internacional de Poesía de Medellín llama al Estado Colombiano y a las FARC, interpretando el deseo del pueblo colombiano, secuestrado por la guerra, a nombrar sus delegados para que intercambien puntos de vista sobre las posibilidades del intercambio humanitario, que despeje el camino hacia una solución política negociada que ponga punto final al oprobioso conflicto bélico, interminable, y se suma a las voces de los delegados de los gobiernos de Suiza, Francia, España y Alemania, en cuanto repudian nuevos intentos de rescate armado de los rehenes secuestrados y respecto al imperativo de constituir de inmediato una Comisión Internacional de Establecimiento de los Hechos que investigue y haga pública claridad sobre las circunstancias en que murieron los 11 diputados secuestrados por la guerrilla”.

I also find it more than a little strange that the Colombian government would choose to come down on someone like Rendón, whose internationally famous poetry festival showcases the best of Colombian literary talent to the world, at a time when Colombia is seeking to improve its world image. Kind of seems like shooting the goose that laid the golden egg...

3. Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos: "Cousin" Darío's 80th birthday on July 4th might have gone unnoticed but for the fact that he is now officially completely retired from his Vatican duties. He will no longer have voting rights in papal enclaves and he has been replaced as head of the Pontifical "Ecclesia Dei" Commission by Cardinal William Levada, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

"Ecclesia Dei" was charged with healing the schism with the ultraconservative Society of St. Pius X. The process became an embarassment when, after the excommunication orders against four of SSPX's bishops were lifted, one of them, Richard Williamson, was discovered to be a Holocaust denier. This caused worldwide outrage and led to Williamson's expulsion from Argentina. Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos said he and other officials knew nothing about Williamson's position. Pope Benedict XVI was forced to acknowledge the problem, saying in a letter to Catholic bishops worldwide that he was unaware of the bishop's positions when he lifted the excommunication. The men are still not able to function as bishops and the Vatican has declared any ordinations by the Society to be invalid.

In an interview with El Tiempo, Castrillón Hoyos says that he achieved his personal goals during his tenure as head of "Ecclesia Dei": First, that all priests in the world might be able to celebrate the old Latin rite Mass (Tridentine Mass) freely, second, promoting the richness of this rite, and third, that the excommunication of the SSPX bishops be lifted. In spite of rumors in the media to the contrary, the Cardinal also denied that there were any hard feelings between himself and the Pope. He plans to spend his retirement years doing a little parish work and writing a book and giving lectures on the old Gregorian Mass.

The cardinal also lamented his country's ongoing fatricidal war and indicated his willingness to be involved in any peace negotiations if asked. Please pray for the people of Colombia, that true peace will come to that weary land. Nuestra Señora de Chiquinquirá, ruega por nosotros.

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