.- Bishop Jesus Juarez of El Alto in Bolivia denied reports this week that he had challenged the government to attend the traditional Te Deum Mass to mark the city of El Alto’s anniversary, but he did confirm that he invited the officials to attend the Mass and to pray together with the Catholic people “for progress in the region.”
The bishop’s comments came in response to reports by two Bolivian news programs about a “supposed statement” in which he challenged the government of Evo Morales to attend the Eucharistic celebration.
“I ask the media not to distort my statements. At no time did I allude to the President [Evo Morales] or to the government or to any other official,” the bishop said in press release published on the Bolivian bishops’ website.
“Before it was customary for officials to attend the Te Deum on these anniversaries to pray to God for progress in the region,” Bishop Juarez said. But after the approval of the new Constitution, “attendance is a personal choice in accord with one’s faith,” he said.
However, the bishop insisted, “The new Constitution does not erase God or the faith of the people, who have a right to express it publicly.”
Therefore, “we will have the Te Deum,” and “the Church will pray for the city of El Alto. We invite our leaders to attend. If they do so, that is their choice. The Catholic people will be there. And if any leader decides not to attend, their conscience will be respected.”