2010-12-22 MEXICO

Defender of the rights of the indigenous peoples of Mexico

The former bishop of San Cristóbal de las Casas, in the state of Chiapas, Mexico, has been affiliated to the Institute by the Province of México Central in recognition of his closeness to and support of the Brothers in the mission of Guadalupe, a missionary work of the Marist Brothers in Chiapas. On 10 December 2010, Mgr jTatic Samuel Ruiz García was affiliated in the presence of Br. Provincial of México Central, Ricardo Reynozo, and Brothers Josep Maria Soteras and Eugène Kabanguka, General Councillors, during an intimate and family ceremony in his house in Querétaro, Qro. His career as bishop occupies a central place in the life of Mgr Ruiz. In 1959 he was appointed bishop of San Cristóbal de las Casas, in the state of Chiapas, a diocese with a very poor population, most of them indigenous. On 6 January 1962, he asked for the collaboration of the Marist Brothers and the mission of Guadalupe was founded. Activities commenced with the setting up of a school for catechists from the indigenous communities.Mgr Samuel became world known for his closeness to the peoples of Chiapas and because he offered his collaboration as mediator in the conflict between the indigenous Zapatist Army of National Liberation and the Mexican federal government. He carried out his episcopal ministry in San Cristóbal de las Casas until 1999 and lives today in retirement in Querétaro. After meeting this man, Br. Eugène Kabanguka wrote the following testimony: « Dom Samuel is a believer filled with love for the Church and very creative in his pastoral mission. When one is in contact with Dom Samuel, one is faced with a prophetic personality, gifted with a faith and a love nothing can stop. One senses in him love of the Church?s teachings, love of the people of God, of truth and justice. In his pastoral mission, Dom Samuel has been very creative: he has shown that the Church, as Mother, must resolutely defend the rights of her children, without fear or shame, accepting the risk of being misunderstood and even death if necessary.That he is now one of us, as a member affiliated to the Institute, fills us with joy and constitutes a challenge at this time of « going in haste with Mary to a new land ». Like Abraham and Moses, Dom Samuel knows what the « new land » means. Br. Josep Maria Soteras, for his part, has this to say about the meeting with Mgr Ruiz: « The meeting with the emeritus bishop of Chiapas. Dom Samuel Ruiz, was very moving. Neither Br. Eugène nor I knew him personally. His welcome was enough to show us that we were in the presence of someone profoundly shaped by the Lord. He spoke less about what he had done than of the way in which the life and the indigenous peoples of Chiapas had fulfilled and transformed his existence. With them he had been able to incarnate once again the Gospel parable in the human story. We found ourselves in front of an elderly, simple man, without any pretentions. ?In the wars, they put up statues to generals, but at the front, it?s the soldiers who die. People look at me, but what has happened in Chiapas would not have been possible without the Marist Brothers?, he said. With the evangelization carried out by hundreds of indigenous catechists, these peoples have gradually recovered their human dignity. Success is not yet achieved but it is inevitable: it is only a matter of time. Dom Samuel expressed this with an image: ?When we arrived, the Indians walked stooped and had to leave the footpath and bow to any « criollo » whatever who happened to be coming towards him on that path. Now they walk erect on the same footpaths they share with others. They are recovering « their world » and, little by little, they are feeling at home.? That seemed to us a new edition of the exodus or the return from exile, at their sides men of flesh and blood: Dom Samuel, the Brothers of México Central? The process was not without violence, Mgr Ruiz was accused of revolt, and was an object of suspicion inside the Church as well as outside it?but a stranger to the aggressiveness of both sides, nothing seems to have affected him at all. He preserves an extraordinary serenity and gentleness: it is the tenderness which emerges without any doubt from his stories and his experiences. He lives his simple old age in a discreet little house in the capital, accompanied by some members of his family and the lay man who has always been his personal secretary. One of the many domestic churches where he carries out his ministry, inspiring all who come to pay him a visit. »jTatic Samuel, « Our Father », as the people of Chiapas call him, was born on 3 November 1924 in Irapuato, Guanajuato. He did his studies in the Seminary of Léon, Guanajato. He was ordained priest on 2 April 1949. He is doctor in Theology and Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Gregorian University and the Biblical Institute of Rome. Appointed Bishop of Chiapas on 14 November 1959 by Pope John XXIII, he was consecrated in the cathedral of San Cristóbal de las Casas on 25 January 1960. Following the invitation of Mgr jTatic Samuel, on 6 January 1962 was founded the mission of Guadalupe, a missionary work of the Marist Brothers in Chiapas. This was a school for male catechists from the indigenous communities; a female one was founded the same year by the Sisters of the Divine Shepherd. These catechists accompany the communities to read their situation and throw light on it from the Word of God; they are the servants of their people. Many of them have learned to read and write in Spanish using the Bible. At present, there would be more than 8,000 catechists in the diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas.jTatic Samuel learned to journey with the communities; he learned that the bishop is the servant of his people, close to all, men and women, old and young; he listened to their sorrows and their needs, he listened to their heart. He recognized the Indians, the half-castes, the laity as the subjects of their own evangelisation, and believers are committed to spending their lives in the faithful and generous announcing of the word of God.jTatic Samuel recognised the dignity of women; he taught them to read the Bible with a woman?s eye, mind and heart; he opened a way for them and their rights to be respected in the Church and in society.In following the teachings of Vatican Council II and the Latin-American Conferences, he opted for the poor, the suffering faces of Jesus. He built among his people a native Church, with renewed ecclesial structures, in a process of inculturation of the Gospel, taking as model the Virgin of Guadalupe. We can affirm that the Church in the diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, is a living one; its thousands of servants are proof of it.jTatic Samuel has accepted and lived the word of God with an open heart; he is an epistle, full of stories which sing of life and hope. jTatic Samuel has let his heart be touched by the heart of God. He has trusted in God, he has put himself in his hands to find the wisdom to be a pastor and mediator among his people.On 25 January 2010 he celebrated his 50 years as a bishop. On this occasion a theological congress was organised and a digital book written: « Don Samuel, prophet and pastor », which records part of the historical memory of his journey as bishop of San Cristóbal.


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