Our first day in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, was the last day of a Congress on Pastoral Theology that was held in conjunction with the celebration of the Golden Anniversary of Bishop Samuel Ruiz. You will recall that one of the thrusts of Vatican II was that there should be a little more diversity, respecting the specific experiences of various locations in the world in proclaiming the gospel. This giving greater weight to local circumstance and the notion of calling together Bishops from around the world to compare and share experiences with each other in a collegial setting was one of the profound and controversial elements of the Vatican Council. Pastoral Theology, in contrast with Academic Theology or Conciliar Theology would be emphasized in this model.

In cooperation with the Diocese of San Cristobal a list of well known international speakers had been assembled along with more local theologians as well. From the poster below we can see that the scheduled speakers include: Gustavo Gutierrez, Peru; Georgina Zubiria, Mexico; Bishop Victor Corral, of Ecudor; Eleazer Lopez, Mexico; and from the Diocese of San Cristobal – Jorge Santiago, Refugio Esparza, Guadalupe Rojas and Manuel Hurtato. Gutierrez was ill and unable to attend, but so far as I know all the other presenters were able to attend.

When we arrived at the Congress a friend, Fr. Henry, had registered all three of us and had name tags, which made us feel right at home. We were surprised at how many people in the audience we were acquainted with already.

We had heard that at the end of the program there would be a time for presentations to Bishop Ruiz. We identified ourselves as an Ecumenical group that had a gift for the Bishop – a crystal desk ornament from Common Global Ministries, and a letter of congratulations from our Executive for Latin America and Carribean, Rev. Felix Ortiz-Cotto. At a certain point, about three presentations after that from Pope Benedict, presented by Bishop Felipe Arizmendi, we received word that we were next. We had seen Rev. Delle McCormick also in attendance, so we gathered her into our little delegation on the way to the stage.

Rev. Paula Bidle made the presentation. She gave a little background on how our association with Don Samuel had begun with our common assistance to the Guatemalan Refugees beginning in 1982, and had continued over the years. She then read the fine letter from Felix, that outlined the two missionaries that had come in solidarity with the Diocese – Rev. Bidle and Rev. McCormick. There seemed to be some recognition of our participation and partnership that has now run some 28 years now, and is carried forward through the efforts on INESIN. It was an emotional moment for me.
Below is the text of the letter from Felix in both English and Spanish.
Indianapolis, Indiana
January 8, 2010
Bishop Samuel Ruiz
Chiapas, México
Very esteemed Bishop Ruiz:
The United Church of Christ (USA), and the Christian Church (Disciples
of Christ) in the U.S. and Canada, by way of Global Ministries, send very
cordial greetings on the celebration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of your
consecration as Bishop of the Catholic Church in Mexico. Receive
greetings from the Rev. Cally Rogers and the Rev. David Vargas, Co-
Executive of Global Ministries.
We thank God for your life and your ministry as a pastor and prophet.
We celebrate your commitment to the Gospel that brings peace as the
fruit of justice. We rejoice in your support of the Gospel that does away
with the colonization enterprise environment; which proposes a new way
to relate to one another, with respect and admiration, with the ancient
cultures that inhabit Chiapas, and with other church and religious
expressions that accompany the people in their daily struggles.
We remember the relationship that began several years ago between the
Diocese of San Cristobal de las Casas and the Conferences of the United
Church of Illinois and Wisconsin. As a result of that relationship, the
Global Ministries missionary Paula Bidle and Delle McCormick, served
through the Diocese until the year 2002. We celebrate that the
relationship with the Diocese gave way to INESIN (the Institute for
Intercultural Studies and Research).
We recognize your struggle in defense of life and Creation, in moments
when doing so would put your life at risk. For this reason, you received
the recognition of Global Ministries in the General Assembly of the
Disciples of Christ Church, held in Denver, Colorado in 1997 when you
were awarded the Affirmation Award for Latin America and the
Caribbean, for your commitment to human rights.
We reaffirm our joy and commitment to further deepen the fraternal
relationship with the Diocese, under the current leadership of Bishop
Felipe Arizmendi.
Thank you, Pastor Don Samuel, for following the footsteps of the Master.
Félix Ortiz

Indianápolis, Indiana
8 de enero de 2010
Obispo Rev. Samuel Ruiz
Chiapas, México
Muy estimado Obispo Ruiz:
La Iglesia Unida de Cristo de EEUU, y la Iglesia Cristiana (Discípulos de
Cristo) de Estados Unidos y Canadá, por medio de los Ministerios
Globales, le saluda muy cordialmente en la celebración del Cincuenta
Aniversario de su consagración como Obispo de la Iglesia Católica en
México. Reciba los saludos de la Rev. Cally Rogers y el Rev. David
Vargas, Co-Ejecutivos de Ministerios Globales.
Damos gracias a Dios por su vida y su apostolado como pastor y como
profeta. Celebramos su compromiso con el Evangelio que trae paz como
fruto de la justicia. Nos regocijamos en su aporte al Evangelio que se
vacía de su entorno de empresa colonizadora; que propone una nueva
forma de relacionarse, con respeto y admiración, con las culturas
milenarias que habitan Chiapas, y con otras expresiones eclesiales y
religiosas que acompañan al pueblo en sus luchas cotidianas.
Recordamos la relación que se inició hace algunos años entre la Diócesis
de San Cristóbal de las Casas y las Conferencias de la Iglesia Unida
de Illinois y Wisconsin. Como fruto de dicha relación, la misionera de
Ministerios Globales, Paula Bidle y Delle McCormick, sirvieron por medio
de la Diócesis hasta el año 2002. Nos regocija que dicha relación con la
Diócesis dio paso a INESIN (el Instituto de Estudios e Investigación
Reconocemos su lucha por la defensa de la vida y de la Creación, en
momentos en los cuales hacerlo implicaba poner la vida en riesgo. Por
tal razón, usted recibió el reconocimiento de Ministerios Globales en la
Asamblea General de la Iglesia Discípulos de Cristo, celebrada en
Denver, Colorado, en el 1997, cuando se le otorgó el premio de
Afirmación para América Latina y el Caribe, por su compromiso con los
derechos humanos.
Reafirmamos nuestra alegría y compromiso con seguir profundizando la
relación fraterna con la Diócesis, bajo la dirección actual del Obispo
Felipe Arizmendi.
Gracias, Pastor Don Samuel, por seguir las huellas del Maestro.
Félix Ortiz

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