Church in Mexico prays with relatives of disappeared persons

Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega presides over a Mass for the disappeared in Jalisco state, Mexico, on Aug. 27, 2023. | Credit: Press Archbishopric of Guadalajara

This past week, the Catholic Church in the Mexican state of Jalisco held various prayer initiatives with the relatives of victims of forced disappearance, a crime that has plagued the state in recent decades.

In Latin America to say someone “was disappeared” means that the person was abducted, often by organized crime, an authoritarian government, or a rebel group and may or may not be alive.

According to the National Registry of Disappeared and Unlocated Persons, from Jan. 1, 1962, to Aug. 28, 2023, there were 111,068 disappeared persons throughout the country, 14,889 of whom are from Jalisco, which leads the nation in this crime.

The archbishop of Guadalajara, Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega, offered a Mass on Sunday, Aug. 27, at the Shrine of the Martyrs of Christ the King for the thousands of disappeared persons and their families. The Mass was held in the context of the International Day of Victims of Enforced Disappearances, which is commemorated on Aug. 30.

Robles encouraged the relatives of the disappeared to keep alive the memory of the people whom “you are missing and we are missing.”

“We cannot settle for saying ‘disappeared,’ that is, ‘those people no longer appear on the map of humanity, they no longer count.’ ... We need to keep alive the awareness that each of these faces in the photographs that you have brought are a loved, sought after, dear person, a person who is missing from the center of the family. An absent person,” the cardinal said during his homily.

The prelate emphasized that the problem of forced disappearance is a “human tragedy” that must resound in the minds and hearts of the authorities at the national level who are responsible for searching for missing persons and for guaranteeing the right to protection and security.

“We cannot allow the tragedy that involves so many families to be shielded by a number that is manipulated by some with political and election criteria. ‘Ah, for us to do well in the next elections, the number must be lowered, it must be said that they are fewer.’ We can’t allow that,” Robles stressed.

He also encouraged those attending the Mass to continue demanding justice from the authorities: “We want to know: What happened? Where are they? Are they alive or dead? If they’re alive, where are they? If they’re dead, where are they? We want to know, we have the right to know.”

Before the Mass, the families held a procession through the streets of Jalisco with the relics of St. Cristóbal Magallanes and fellow martyrs who died during the persecution of the Mexican Church in the 1920s that led to the Cristero uprising, which had major support in Jalisco state.

Disappeared young people in Lagos de Moreno

On Aug. 11, the parents of a group of friends between the ages of 19 and 22 reported that their sons had not returned home after attending the annual city fair. According to images and videos posted on social media, the young men were apparently being held by criminals, who allegedly forced one of them to kill the rest of his companions.

Given the situation, Archbishop Jorge Alberto Cavazos Arizpe, the apostolic administrator of San Juan de los Lagos, which includes the town of Lagos de Moreno, encouraged the faithful to spend a weekend in prayer to show solidarity with the victims and their families in the face of these events.

On Aug. 24 after Mass at Our Lady of the Assumption Church, Cavazos met with the parents, who still don’t know the whereabouts of their sons. The church is the same place where a massive prayer vigil had been held a week earlier to demand justice for the acts of violence.

The following day the bells were rung in the city’s churches and on Aug. 25 at 8 p.m., the Stations of the Cross were held in Lagos de Moreno in the vicinity of the esplanade of Templo Calvario, a church whose facade resembles St. Peter’s Basilica.

Cavazos said that a day of prayer and “an ongoing witness for peace” will be maintained on the diocesan level for the remainder of August and in the month of September.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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