Saturday, July 15, 2006

They cannot silence the Gospel, which is the voice of Jesus (The Martyrs of La Rioja, Argentina)

In 1969, Bishop Enrique Angelelli of the La Rioja diocese held his first mass aired on the radio. May, 1969, the Bishop wrote in his pastoral an analysis of the reality in La Rioja and the liberation of the people. Because of this, Monsignor Angelelli became closer to workers and farmers. He denounced drugs, gambling and prostitution among the powerful people of La Rioja. He visited all districts and forgotten rural provinces in his diocese, encouraging them to solve their problems. He demanded to the national government for budget for the nation, condemned the human rights abuses by governors, encouraged the organization of the domestic employees and insisted all to commit in the political action on the service and well-being of the town. But conservative Catholic groups protested against the actions of Bishop Angelelli and his radio programs were banned.
In 1973, during the general elections, the people’s hopes were returned. The mass aired on the radio was allowed again. But, the Church was persecuted. On June 13, in Annilaco, there had been expulsion organized by landowners of priests and nuns. Many people called the Church of La Rioja “Communists”.
In 1974, the country suffered more problems with socio-political crisis. In September, Angelelli visited Rome. In Rome, he was advised not to return anymore because he is being threatened by the "Three A" (group for police officers of the Anti-communist Alliance of Argentina). But Angelelli returned to his suffering flock and defended their rights.

In February of 1976, the General Vicar of the Diocese of La Rioja, Mons. Esteban Inestal and two leaders of the Rural Movement were arrested. After the coup d’etat on March 24, the people and the Church were persecuted. Mons. Angelelli spoke out in defense of his suffering flock. He made negotiations with the military government, and even talked with Commander Luciano III. Realizing that his priests and religious’ lives are in danger, he advised them to leave the Diocese and take refuge. He refused the Latin American Bishop’s Conference’s invitation for an encounter in Quito, Ecuador. Things got worse. Many more priests were arrested.

On 18 July 1976, the priests GABRIEL LONGUEVILLE, a French priest aged 44, and CARLOS DE DIOS MURIAS, 33, were having a dinner. Two people, members of the Federal police, came and talked with them for about ten minutes. They were told to go to La Rioja to identify some prisoners. The two took advantage of this trip by taking some belongings for a pastoral meeting. Then, they went to La Rioja. Nothing more is heard about them. The next day, the bodies of the two priests were found near the railroad with clear signs of torture.

On hearing the death of the two priests, the Bishop of Longueville’s diocese in France went to the place of their martyrdom, kissed the ground and planted grains of wheat from Longueville’s village. Monsignor Angelelli officiated the funeral of the two martyrs. He recalled what Murias said three hours before he disappeared, “They can silence the voice of the Bishop and the voice of Carlos de Dios Murias, but they can not silence the Gospel, which is the voice of Jesus.” He also said about Longueville, “Gabriel, man of peace, sensitive to the sufferings of his neighbors, faithful friend, alert and of a few words.”

The day after the crime, men wearing hoods went to look for the parish priest of Sanogasta, but he had already left on the recommendation of the Bishop, Monsignor Enrique Angelelli. A layperson who attended to them, WENCESLAO PEDERNERA, was asked about the whereabouts of the priest. He was shot when he told them that the priest was not there. Pedrenera is a married person and a farmer. He is also a member of the Young Catholic Workers.

On 4 August, seventeen days after the murder of the priests, Monsignor Enrique Angelelli, Bishop of the Diocese of La Rioja, died, allegedly in a car accident. However, overwhelming evidence has been gathered which suggests that it was an assassination.

The Bishop had just left Chamical where he had celebrated Mass and given a sermon in which he denounced the previous murders. The Bishop was driving a van, and Father Arturo Pinto who was accompanying him, remembers how just as they left Chamical a car began to follow them. The Bishop accelerated, but then another car appeared and at the height of the Punta de los Llanos the cars blocked their path and forced the van to overturn.

The body of the Bishop was left on the ground for six hours, the van disappeared, and the only injury that the corpse of Monsignor Angelelli showed was a broken neck, as if it had been repeatedly struck. The briefcase that the Bishop was carrying was never found.

When Democracy returned to Argentina, the case of the murder of the Bishop was returned. It was declared that Bishop Angelelli was murdered, and that he did not die in a car accident.


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