Fr Stephen Smuts

Posts Tagged ‘Mexico

Mexico: Gunmen Attack Church Camp-Out

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Toluca, Mexico – A gang of about a dozen armed people stormed into a church youth camp-out near Mexico City and went on an hours-long rampage of beatings, robberies and rape, authorities said Saturday.

Seven girls were raped during the Friday attack and several campers were beaten, according to the state prosecutors office in Mexico State, which surrounds the Mexican capital.

About 90 youths sponsored by a church group known as the Chains of the Holy Trinity were camping at an eco-park on the eastern outskirts of Mexico City, in a hilly area that is close to the lower flanks of the Popocatepetl volcano. Prosecutors did not say what church the group is affiliated with, but the camp-out appeared to have been a sort of spiritual retreat.

The office said that the attack lasted for hours, and that when the attackers left they stole two vehicles and other articles from the campers.

The office said investigators were pursuing two lines of inquiry, but did not reveal what they were.

Drug gangs operate on the outskirts of Mexico City, but campers and hikers have also been targeted in the past by common criminals.

The park is supposed to be patrolled by local police, but the attack occurred during the night and it was unclear whether officers were on duty at the time. Police only found out about the crimes when an adult organizer of the camp-out showed up at police offices to report the attack.

The state government said in a statement that it had witness’ descriptions of the attackers and pledged to catch and punish those responsible.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

July 15, 2012 at 07:52

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Pope Benedict XVI’s Remarks on Arrival in Mexico

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Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Mexico on Friday, at the start of his six-day trip to Latin America that will also take him to the island nation of Cuba.

In remarks during the official welcome ceremony, the Holy Father said he has come to confirm the people of Mexico, Cuba and all Latin America in their faith, at a time when the peoples of the region are celebrating the bicentenary of their independence.

“I come,” said Pope Benedict, “I come as a pilgrim of faith, of hope, and of love. I wish to confirm those who believe in Christ in their faith, by strengthening and encouraging them to revitalize their faith by listening to the Word of God, celebrating the sacraments and living coherently.”

Below, please find the full text of Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks at the welcome ceremony.

Mister President,
Your Eminences,
Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,
Distinguished Civil Authorities,
Beloved People of Guanajuato and of Mexico,

I am very happy to be here, and I give thanks to God for allowing me to realize the desire, kept in my heart for a long time; to confirm in the faith the People of God of this great nation in their own land. The affection of the Mexican people for the Successor of Peter, whom they always remember in their prayers, is well known. I say this here, considered to be the geographical centre of your land, which my venerable predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, wanted to visit during his first Apostolic Journey. Although he was not able to come, on that occasion he left a message of encouragement while flying over its airspace. I am happy to repeat his words here on land among you: “I am grateful”, he said in the message, “to the faithful of El Bajío and Guanajuato for your affection towards the Pope and your faithfulness to the Lord. May God be with you always” (cf. Telegram, 30 January 1979).

With this in mind, I offer my thanks to you, Mister President, for your warm welcome and I respectfully greet your wife and the rest of the civil authorities who have honoured me by their presence. I offer a special greeting to the Most Reverend José Guadalupe Martín Rábago, Archbishop of León, and to the Most Reverend Carlos Aguiar Retes, Archbishop of Tlalnepantla and President of the Mexican Episcopal Conference and the Latin America Episcopal Council. With this brief visit, I wish to greet all Mexicans and to include all the nations and peoples of Latin America, represented here by many Bishops. Our meeting in this place, where the majestic monument to Christ the King on Mount Cubilete, gives testimony to the deep roots of the Catholic faith among the Mexican people, who receive his constant blessings in all their vicissitudes.

Mexico, and the majority of Latin American nations, have been commemorating in recent years the bicentennial of their independence. There have been many religious celebrations in thanksgiving to God for this important and significant moment. During these celebrations, as in the Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Most Holy Mary was invoked fervently, she who gently showed how the Lord loves all people and gave himself for them without distinction. Our Heavenly Mother has kept vigil over the faith of her children in the formation of these nations and she continues to do so today as new challenges present themselves.

I come as a pilgrim of faith, of hope, and of love. I wish to confirm those who believe in Christ in their faith, by strengthening and encouraging them to revitalize their faith by listening to the Word of God, celebrating the sacraments and living coherently. In this way, they will be able to share their faith with others as missionaries to their brothers and sisters and to act as a leaven in society, contributing to a respectful and peaceful coexistence based on the incomparable dignity of every human being, created by God, which no one has the right to forget or disregard. This dignity is expressed especially in the fundamental right to freedom of religion, in its full meaning and integrity.

As a pilgrim of hope, I speak to them in the words of Saint Paul: “But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Th. 4:13). Confidence in God offers the certainty of meeting him, of receiving his grace; the believer’s hope is based on this. And, aware of this, we strive to transform the present structures and events which are less than satisfactory and seem immovable or insurmountable, while also helping those who do not see meaning or a future in life. Yes, hope changes the practical existence of each man and woman in a real way (cf. Spe Salvi, 2). Hope points to “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1), that is already making visible some of its reflections. Moreover, when it takes root in a people, when it is shared, it shines as light that dispels the darkness which blinds and takes hold of us. This country and the entire continent are called to live their hope in God as a profound conviction, transforming it into an attitude of the heart and a practical commitment to walk together in the building of a better world. As I said in Rome, “continue progressing untiringly in the building of a society founded upon the development of the good, the triumph of love and the spread of justice” (Homily, 12 December 2011).

Together with faith and hope, the believer in Christ – indeed the whole Church – lives and practises charity as an essential element of mission. In its primary meaning, charity “is first of all the simple response to immediate needs and specific situations” (Deus Caritas Est, 31), as we help those who suffer from hunger, lack shelter, or are in need in some way in their life. Nobody is excluded on account of their origin or belief from this mission of the Church, which does not compete with other private or public initiatives. In fact, the Church willingly works with those who pursue the same ends. Nor does she have any aim other than doing good in an unselfish and respectful way to those in need, who often lack signs of authentic love.

Mister President, my dear friends: in these days I will pray to the Lord and to Our Lady of Guadalupe for all of you so that you may be true to the faith which you have received and to its best traditions. I will pray especially for those in need, particularly for those who suffer because of old and new rivalries, resentments and all forms of violence. I know that I am in a country which is proud of its hospitality and wishes no one to feel unwelcome. I already knew this, and now I can see it and feel it in my heart. I sincerely hope that many Mexicans who live far from their homeland will feel the same way and that nothing will cause them to forget it or to lose the wish to see it growth in harmony and in authentic integral development.

Thank you!


You can follow Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic journey to Mexico and Cuba here.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

March 24, 2012 at 07:47

The Largest Nativity Scene in the World

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And it sets a Guinness Record!

Mexico City – City authorities have set up a nativity scene – certified by Guinness Records as the largest in the world – as part of their Christmas festivities.

The nativity scene, which cost $2 million to create, sprawls across the parking lot of the giant Azteca stadium.

The scene, which covers 215,000 square feet — larger than four football fields, has 5,000 figures portraying 57 biblical passages related to the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.

Organizers said that it took architects, engineers, designers and historians 70 days to create the project, which was unveiled by Mayor Marcelo Ebrard on Wednesday, 17 days before Christmas.

More than 80 percent of Mexico’s population are self-identified Catholics, according to Mexican census figures, and another 9 percent are various denominations of Protestant Christians.

Mexico has no state religion, but Christmas and other Christian observances such as Easter are national holidays.

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

December 11, 2011 at 11:00

Border Nuns

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Franciscans risk stoning to provide aid to poor along border fence.


The compact car lifted a trail of dust as it traveled slowly along the 18-foot-tall chain-link fence, attracting the attention of the U.S. Border Patrol agent sitting in his green and white SUV.

When the vehicle stopped and two women got out, he was concerned contraband might be tossed over the fence into the United States to the waiting vehicle. Instead, the women began throwing items into Mexico.

The two women were Franciscan Missionaries of Mary who come to the fence periodically and toss whatever they can get to give the needy families of Puerta de Anapra, one of the poorest and most violent suburbs of Ciudad Juarez.

“The agent said it was OK for us to be here, but only for a short time,” said the older nun, who identified herself as Sister Marie. Her companion on the goodwill venture into this remote area of the fence — where Texas, New Mexico and Mexico converge — was Sister Karen. Both sisters requested their last names not be disclosed.

“It’s sad, they are so poor,” said Sister Marie. “It breaks my heart see them have to live like this and how they live in such fear.”

The presence of the sisters attracted nearly 20 people, who rushed down dirty, garbage-strewn alleys to make it to the fence to receive their gifts.

As the children pressed their faces against the tight fence, Sister Karen pushed the licorice through the narrow spaces to the tiny fingers of the children. The small spaces make it much more difficult for migrants to get a good footing to cross into the United States.

“Hey, how many do you have there, make sure you share,” Sister Marie said to a boy about 12, as she kept a close watch to ensure everyone who showed up to the fence got something,

The boy looked at Sister Marie and knew the fence allowed him to ignore her request, but he looked at the crowd for another child that did not have a piece of the candy and relinquished his extra.

Sister Marie began these periodic jaunts to the border fence five years ago, after attending the annual Border Mass held in early November and celebrated with congregants facing each other while divided by the fence.

“The people would come to the fence and tell us they desperately needed things,” Sister Marie said.

The “things” were not specified but the abject poverty the Anapra residents live in is evident. Sister Marie, and whoever would help her, would pile pre-worn clothes, shoes, toys and blankets into her car and drive to the fence.

“When we got there people would just show up, and we would throw the items over the fence,” Sister Marie said. “It’s so sad, these people live in shacks, they have nothing.”

According to the Border Patrol agents who kept a close watch on the group, what the sisters do is very dangerous. One agent who declined to give his name — very few people agree to provide their full name at the border — said this area has seen an increase in violence not only against the people in Mexico but against Border Patrol agents. He pointed to his patrol vehicle, which had grates and fencing on all of the windows.

“They throw rocks at us all the time and just recently began throwing cats and dogs over the fence at our vehicles,” said the agent.

One woman who brought her children to meet the sisters was Brenda Alicia, 31. She pointed to her home next to the border fence, adjacent to a wall with gang graffiti on it. Brenda Alicia said she has three children, 13 and 12 years old and 3 months. The two older children were at her side, chewing on newly acquired red licorice.

“I like when the sisters come, we need so much here, especially now that it’s getting cold,” Brenda Alicia said.

The poverty the people in Puerta de Anapra suffer is only a short drive from a large casino, horse race track and amusement park in Sunland Park, N.M. — amenities Brenda Alicia and her children are oblivious to, given their circumstances.

“It’s getting worse here, there are more killings,” Brenda Alicia said.

She said she is fearful that her older son may be enticed to get involved with the gangs because of the easy money.

Sisters Marie and Karen know the danger they face when they come to this remote area of the border.

“I come here fearless,” Sister Marie said.

Their missions are conducted under the watchful eye of Border Patrol agents, who give the nuns their tacit but reluctant approval.

With the trunk of her car now empty, Sister Marie, with the aid of Sister Karen, began handing out pastel-colored rosaries, accepted as eagerly as the licorice. As that supply dwindled, a burly Border Patrol agent approached the sisters.

“Sister we have some bandit activity on their side further up the fence, and we don’t want them to come and take the things away from the people,” said the agent.

Often, youth gangs beat the group and take the items the sisters had just given them.

“OK, thank you,” Sister Marie said.

The Border Patrol agent walked off, allowing the sisters to say their goodbyes to the group, but returned within a minute with greater urgency after receiving another radio call.

“Sisters you need to leave now because they are throwing rocks at our agents and we don’t want you getting struck.”

“We’d better go now, thank you and God bless you,” Sister Marie said to the agent, giving him a hearty handshake.

Well, God bless these nuns and their excellent work.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

October 20, 2011 at 12:14

Priest Uses Water Gun to Spray Congregation with Holy Water

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Whatever happened to using an aspergillum?

The Deacon’s Bench:

Really?  Seems so. Details:

A Catholic priest from a small Mexican town has turned on his own congregation armed with a watergun which was loaded with holy water.

Father Juan Ramon Hernandez gives mass at a church in Acatlan. He became so saddened by the seemingly daily drug-related killings and violence he decided to take a stand… with a water gun.

“Let’s pray to change the heart of the people who use violence and kill other people,” he said. “Let’s throw all the guns far away.”

Some children, who were making their first communion, giggled as the priest sprayed churchgoers with holy water.

Read more.

Innovative stupidity.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

September 28, 2011 at 23:25

Mexico is a Mess!

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When things like this are happening all the more: Priest killed in crossfire.

Church officials and the community of Matamoros were in shock after a well-known Catholic priest was killed in crossfire during a Saturday afternoon shootout between armed gunmen and the Mexican military.

Sources outside of law enforcement said the shootout began when members of the Zetas tried to enter Matamoros.

Father Marco Antonio Duran Romero died at approximately 3:40 p.m. at a local hospital from a gunshot injury, according to a statement by Father Alan G. Camargo, a spokesman for the Matamoros Diocese.

The diocese issued a statement late Saturday expressing deep pain at the death of Father Duran.

According to a Tamaulipas law enforcement official not authorized to speak to the media, Duran was struck in the chest by a bullet from a firefight between authorities and gunmen as he drove through Avenida Albino Hernandez in the Colonia Obrera.

Duran was widely known throughout the city because of a television show he had on a local channel and regular appearances on radio, where he discussed a wide variety of topics. He also served at the San Roberto Belarmino parish in the Colonia Portes Gil, according to a Matamoros resident who is close to the diocese and was deeply saddened by the news…

Too terrible. Rule of law seems to be held ransom to murderous cartels and gangs.

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

July 4, 2011 at 13:49

Israeli President Netanyahu Urges US to Return to 1845 Borders

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U.S aggression has forced Mexicans into a life of hopelessness, drugs and underemployment.

Netanyahu Urges U.S. Return to 1845 Borders

Israeli PM calls for “just solution” to end the conflict.

Aboard Air Force Aleph (Reuters) – Speaking to reporters accompanying Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his long flight to the United States tonight, Netanyahu spoke of the injustice and hardship Mexicans have endured since American forces annexed Texas in 1845. “Tens of thousands of ordinary Mexicans were driven out of their homes – the only homes they had known for centuries – and forced to live in poverty and squalor south of the border imposed by American aggression,” Netanyahu said. “The Israeli and Mexican people agree on this: This festering wound will never heal until America takes bold steps to return to the internationally accepted lines of 1845. Clearly the settlement activity that’s taken place in occupied Mexico since then is illegal. When I meet the President tomorrow I will tell him to halt all building activity in Texas immediately. Two lands for two peoples, yes, but not on land taken by force from Mexico,” the Prime Minister said.

Asked if his hard-line stance could hurt the U.S.-Israel relationship, Netanyahu reiterated Israel’s commitment to America’s security and the unshakeable friendship shared by the two countries, then added, “But who was it who said, part of friendship is being able to tell your friend the truth. The ball is now in Obama’s court.”

The above was here.

HT:  Patrick Madrid

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

May 24, 2011 at 17:17

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