GUATEMALA CITY – Guatemala’s Catholic Church marked Friday’s 15th anniversary of the brutal murder of Bishop Juan Jose Gerardi by remembering the slain cleric as a peace activist and defender of human rights.
Gerardi was a “martyr for peace” who devoted himself to Guatemala’s downtrodden peasants and indigenous people, Archbishop Oscar Julio Vian said in a service at Guatemala City’s Metropolitan Cathedral.
“He struggled to build a fairer and more worthy society (and) sought peace through truth and justice,” Guatemala’s Catholic primate said.
Vian urged Guatemalans to banish fear, pessimism and frustration and expressed the hope that the memory of Gerardi will live on forever.
The bishop died on April 26, 1998, on the grounds of the Church of St. Sebastian, around 200 meters (yards) from the seat of the Guatemalan government.
Gerardi, 75, was found beaten to death in the garage of the rectory where he lived just two days after a panel he led released a report documenting 55,000 human rights violations during Guatemala’s 1960-1996 civil war, most of them committed by the army.
Two of the three people convicted in connection with the murder secured early release from prison within the last year.
Retired army Col. Byron Disrael Lima Estrada was paroled last July, while the Rev. Mario Orantes, sentenced to 20 years as an accomplice in the assassination, received parole in January.
Lima Estrada’s son and co-conspirator, Capt. Byron Lima Oliva, has been turned down twice by the courts in his bid for early release. EFE