Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel on Pope Francis

This statement from Nobel Peace prize winner and human rights activist Adolfo Pérez Esquivel is available in its original Spanish on Amerindia. We bring it to you here in English -- RG

We are celebrating the appointment of the first Latin American pope in the history of the Catholic Church and his choice of the hopeful name Francis to carry forward his papal period.

We hope that he can work for justice and peace beyond the pressures and interests of world powers. We hope that he can leave aside the Vatican mistrust of the protagonism of the people in their liberation. And that he will also encourage the social transformation that is going forward in Latin America and other parts of the world, with the help of populist governments that are trying to get past the night of neoliberalism.

We hope that he will have the courage to defend the rights of the people against the powerful, without repeating the grave errors -- and sins as well -- the Church has made. During the last dictatorship in Argentina, members of the Catholic Church did not have homogeneous attitudes. It isn't debatable that there was complicity from a sizable part of the Church hierarchy in the genocide that was perpetrated on the Argentine people, and though many with an "excess of caution" made silent efforts to free the persecuted, few were the pastors who courageously and decisively took on our struggle for human rights against the military dictatorship. I don't think Jorge Bergoglio was an accomplice of the dictatorship, but I think he lacked the courage to accompany our struggle for human rights during the more difficult times.

I am traveling to Italy to celebrate a new anniversary of the martyrdom of Mons. Arnulfo Romero, a conservative pastor who in the face of the repression in El Salvador, found his "road to Damascus" towards the people and gave his life for justice and peace. Let's hope too that the choice of the name Francis, one of the most important saints of the Church, will be expressed in testimonies of option for and defense of the poor against the powerful, and advocacy for the environment.

Francis has not inherited an imperial throne but the humble chair of a fisherman. Therefore we hope he doesn't forget the words of the martyred Argentine bishop Monseñor Enrique Angelelli, when he said that "we should have one ear to the Gospel and the other to the people, to know what God is saying to us."

Pace e bene,

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel
Nobel Peace Prize

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