Days before Christmas in the southeastern Mexican state of Guerrero, Father Lopez Gorostieta was kidnapped from a local seminary. He was found on Christmas Day, having been strangled to death. No party has claimed responsiblity, nor is there any obvious reason for the deed.
But a month earlier, Ugandan priest Father John Ssenyondo was found dead elsewhere in Guerrero, having been kidnapped six months before, again without explanation. A third priest was killed during a robbery in another part of Mexico in September. Six others were murdered in 2013. Two more remain missing. According to the Vatican, Mexico is now the most dangerous country in Latin America to serve as a priest.
Guerrero is the same state in which 43 university students disappeared in September, having been kidnapped and perhaps killed by drug cartel members and federal military working from the promptings of local officials. (Federal Attorney General Murillo Karam reported in November that the children had been murdered along with three other students already confirmed dead, their bodies burned and thrown in a nearby river. But the DNA from remains does not match those of the students. Their parents refuse to accept the government’s opinion until real proof is found.)
As previously reported by America, their disappearance and the federal government’s slow and at times callous response, has sparked ongoing mass protests throughout the country. In a statement on November 12, the Mexican bishops' conference, wrote "The bishops of Mexico say: enough is enough! We don't want any more blood. We don't want any more death. We don't want any more disappearances." Describing the country as in a state of "true national crisis," the bishops stated that the violence, along with growing inequality and lack of truth by public figures, "make it clear that we have turned away from God."
Pope Francis has spoken out against the violence already, expressing his "closeness to the Mexican people" following the November annoucement of the students' likely fate, and then more recently condemning the murder of Gorostieta as "unjustifiable murder."
But his most profound words on the subject may be his announcement Saturday to make retired Mexican Archbishop Alberto Suárez Inda, 75, of Morelia, in the state of Michoacán, one of the church's new cardinals. Suárez was not predicted to receive a red hat; Morelia has in fact never had a cardinal. Like neighboring Guerrero, Michoacán is a poor state in which corruption, cartels and paramliitary groups formed in response have destabilized civil society.
Suárez Inda's words describing Michoacán from two years ago continue to speak volumes on the issues and needs of Mexico today.
"We are hitting rock bottom, it is time to react and say that one cannot go on like this. Things must change: it is not a question of ‘repainting’ the situation by saying that now one will adopt a system based on justice, but we must involve everyone in order to build society from below. Although the situation is deplorable, we should not fold our arms, we cannot fall into the temptation of severe pessimism. Evil does not have the last word, we must always live in the founded hope that man, in spite of all that may sound bad, is not totally corrupt."