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Catholic Church Works to Promote Peace in Mexico's Violent Guerrero State

David Agren - Catholic News Service
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November 20, 2015

Young people take part in a walk for peace in Acapulco, Mexico, Nov. 19, during a church-sponsored event to call for an end to gang violence. (CNS photo/Brett Gundlock)

Father Adolfo Silva Pita celebrates a monthly memorial Mass for the deceased in a lower-middle-class neighborhood on the outskirts of this tourist town, once famous for sun, fun and celebrities, but notorious now for drugs, crime and killings.

Father Silva, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in a working-class neighborhood, said the Mass imparts “a message of comfort, hope and peace” for families who have lost loved ones, often in violent acts. The families also ask for individual memorial Masses, he said, “but there’s a list of more than 400 names.”

Such is the seriousness of the security situation in many of the Acapulco’s working-class barrios, far from the well-protected tourist strip. Extortion and kidnap can be common. Acapulco recorded 29 murders in a four-day period earlier in November, while at least 50 schools closed due to security concerns.

The city reflects the wider security concerns in the state of Guerrero, which includes Acapulco. The state is known for the kidnapping and presumed killing of 43 teacher trainees in 2014 and is making headlines again for slayings and shootings, including 12 dead after gunmen burst into a clandestine cockfighting ring earlier in November.

Bishops in Guerrero responded to the insecurity and to the inauguration of a new governor with a Nov. 1 pastoral letter calling for dialogue and prioritizing attention to victims of violence. Archbishop Carlos Garfias Merlo told reporters Nov. 3 that the dialogue and attention should include the victimizers, not just the victims.

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