Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 21, 1934 when Father James J. Kane offered Madison's first Mass in Madison's Memorial Town Hall.
Catholic Transcript Reader Survey
Catholic Transcript Reader Survey

20171215T1114 13195 CNS MEXICO CHIAPAS CRISIS 800Indigenous woman pass riot police standing guard on the the city square of San Juan Chamula, Mexico, in late July. (CNS photo/Rene Arauxo, EPA) MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- Clergy in southern Chiapas reiterated warnings of an escalating humanitarian crisis as a land dispute has driven some 5,000 indigenous Tzotzil from their communities and into the mountains to survive in cold and squalid conditions.

At least nine people among the displaced population have died. Father Marcelo Perez, a priest attending to the displaced Tzotzil, said the dead include a newborn baby, two children age 2 or younger and several seniors over age 70.

"What Christmas will those from Chalchihuitan experience if they are dying?" Perez said in a Dec. 14 WhatsApp message.

"Enough with the deaths in Chalchihuitan," the municipality where the deaths where the displacements occurred. "They are children of God. They are humans. They have a right to live."

The conflict in Chiapas stems from a 1973 decision by Mexico's Agrarian Reform Secretariat, when it established the boundaries between the Chiapas municipalities of Chenalho and Chalchihuitan.

Displeasure with the decision in Chenalho has caused conflict for decades. The most recent dispute escalated in November, when villagers from Chalchihuitan said they were run off their land at gunpoint.

Caritas in the Diocese of San Cristobal de Las Casas has called for supplies of food, medicine and shelter, but its efforts have been hampered by roadblocks set up by armed groups in Chenalho.

"The humanitarian crisis grows with each day due to shortages ... provoked by the blockades of the three entrances to the municipality of Chalchihuitan and adding to the effects of rain, the cold and displacement conditions of numerous families, the vast majority from the municipality of Chalchihuitan," said a Dec. 12 statement signed by retired Bishop Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel of San Cristobal de Las Casas, and Dominican Father Gonzalo Ituarte Verduzco, diocesan vicar for justice and peace.

"An armed group acting with impunity has caused a state of siege in the municipality of Chalchihuitan, and we do not understand why the state and federal authorities have allowed it," the statement said.

The diocesan statement called for all levels of government to find "an integral solution, given that on this occasion the conflict has been aggravated more than on any other occasion in memory by the increasing participation of armed groups."

On Dec. 13, an agrarian tribunal ruled on the dispute over 740 acres of land, but this time in favor of the Chenalho claimants; it said the 1973 decision benefiting Chalchihuitan was made in error. The federal and state governments subsequently offered compensation to 300 homeowners.

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.