The pope also urged [Roman] Catholics to confront the spread of evangelical churches through a "new evangelization" that uses "new methods, new expressions and new fervor."
From .............. National Catholic Reporter
February 16, 1996
GUATEMALANS CHEER POPE, CRY FOR PEACE
Bishops present list of 77 priests, others for study as martyrs
By PAUL JEFFREY Special to the National Catholic Reporter
GUATEMALA CITY - Huge crowds welcomed Pope John Paul II to their conflict -weary country, hoping the pontiff would help to end 35 years of civil war.
"He could make peace just by waving his hand," said Flor Munoz, a poor resident of Guatemala City, as she waited with approximately half a million peoplc to hear the pope speak at the Campo Marte, a large, open expanse in the city.
The papal trip did boost languishing peace negotiations between the government and left-wing rebels. Guerrilla leaders declared a temporary cease-fire and pledged to provide the United Nations I with reports on the location of land mines in the countryside.
Guatemalan President Alvaro Arzu, who survived an attack on his life on the eve of the visit, welcomed the pope as a "messenger of peace." Arzu, inaugurated in mid-January, began his rule by overhauling the army's high command.
The Guatemalan bishops, known for their stance favoring the country's indigenous majority, presented the pope during the Campo Marte celebration with a "gift" - a list of 77 priests, religious and catechists assassinated during three decades of brutal military repression - prompting chants of "We want peace" from a crowd of approximately 500,000.
Bishop Jorge Mario Avila del Aguila of Jalapa, president of the episcopal conference, asked the Vatican to examine each case and consider them for martyr status.
The pope paid homage to "the hundreds of chatechists together with some priests who risked and even offered their lives for the gospel" and who "with their blood fertilized forever the blessed soil of Guatemala."
Guatemala's military, known for horrendous human rights abuses, financed the $150,000 popemobile and provided an army tank driver for it.
The military may have been trying to soothe bad feelings left from the pope's 1983 visit, when Gen. Efrain Rios Montt, who had seized power in 1982, ignored a papal plea for mercy and executed six prisoners on the eve of the pope's arrival.
The pope did not publicly endorse the bishop's Historic Memory Recovery Project, an alternative "truth commission" that is documenting massacres, torture, assassinations and rapes committed under military rule. Project organizers hoped papal support would prompt reluctant priests to join the project and encourage victims of violence to testify.
The pope did back the bishops' most recent pastoral letter, which warns of the danger of signing a peace treaty without addressing injustice, demilitarization and democratization of land ownership.
The "signs of hope" in Guatemala, he said, include "the clamor of everyone searching ....... for a common ethic in favor of life ....... that would bring greater spiritual, moral, economic, social and cultural progress for all."
The pope gave Guatemala's majority indigenous population short shrift, said Maria Garcia editor of the Catholic journal, Voces del Tiempo, because
"he spoke in [the city of] Esquipulas of the passion of Christ, but he did not talk about how Christ has suffered with the indigenous for more than 500 years."
The pope also urged Catholics to confront the spread of evangelical churches through a "new evangelization" that uses "new methods, new expressions and new fervor."
Dennis Smith, the general secretary of the Latin American Evangelical Center for Pastoral Studies, lamented the pope's silence on the need for dialogue between Catholics and other religious groups. Non-Catholics represent at least a third of the population.
"[The pope] wants us to believe that the [Roman] Catholic church is the only show in town,"
"To take that position in 1996 is to play the ostrich, putting your head in the sand. It's not very helpful to Guatemalans trying to build a pluralistic society."
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[picture caption]- Two Salvadoran girls pass by tapestries of Pope John Paul II and Our Lady of Guadalupe for sale in front of the San Salvador cathedral.
National Catholic Reporter 7 16 February, 1996