The Common Good
September-October 2000

Chiapas' New Bishop

by Ryan Beiler | September-October 2000

As Bishop Samuel Ruiz, liberation theologian and champion of Chiapas’ indigenous
peoples, faced mandatory retirement at age 75, many feared what would come next.

As Bishop Samuel Ruiz, liberation theologian and champion of Chiapas’ indigenous peoples, faced mandatory retirement at age 75, many feared what would come next. Would pressure from the Mexican government and cardinals opposed to liberation theology result in a more conservative replacement?

Rome’s choice of Felipe Arzimendi—with his reputation for being theologically conservative but socially progressive—seems something of a compromise. "I will continue in the line of Samuel Ruiz," Arzimendi said. "I come not to compete or to destroy, but to complement."

Reports by the Mexican press and human rights offices indicate that paramilitary violence has increased in Chiapas in recent months, and the Mexican army continues to harass and intimidate the indigenous population. "Let the Mexican army respect human rights," said Arzimendi in his installation address, "and let no one be deceived by those who encourage the formation of paramilitary organizations. Do not accumulate more arms, and never raise your hand against your neighbor. Keep in mind the divine command: ‘Thou shalt not kill.’"

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