Bishop Juan Gerardi, auxiliary bishop of Guatemala City, founder and director of the Archdiocesan Human Rights Office, active in the Recovery of Historical Memory Project (REMHI), assassinated, Guatemala City, was killed on April 26,1998. He was 75 years old.
He had been the bishop of the diocese of Quiché, but had to leave because of the violence in 1980. He had also asked all priests and religious to leave because of the violence.
After a visit to the Vatican he tried to return to Guatemala but was denied entry to his native country. After a two year exile in Costa Rica, he returned. In 1984 he was named auxiliary bishop in the Guatemala City archdiocese.
As director of the Human Rights Office he took a major role in the Recovery of Historical Memory project which presented a major study of the deaths and disappearances that plagued Guatemala for Decades. (It is available in English, Guatemala: Never Again!, published by Orbis Books.)
He once wrote:
The Church, in solidarity with and in service of a people that is persecuted and tormented, is also called to share the suffering, the persecution, and the death which confirm the authenticity of its solidarity and service. Jesus reminds us in the Gospel that the servant is not greater than his Master. In Guatemala, the Church is paying dearly for its defense of the poor and its solidarity with those who suffer.
Guatemala suffered hundreds of deaths of lay pastoral workers, priests, and religious for their commitment to the poor. Bishop Gerardi also gave his life, gunned down just two days after presenting the findings on human rights violations.
Would there were more bishops like Monseñor Gerardi and Monseñor Oscar Romero who have the courage to face real persecution because of their defense of the poor. These are the real heroes of faith who give their lives in service of others.