Priest of the town, spokesman for the excluded

Priest of the town, spokesman for the excluded

On August 4, 1976, 46 years ago, the then bishop of La Rioja, Enrique Angelelli, was assassinated when, in the company of his vicar Antonio Pinto, he was driving his truck on a trip from Chamical to the capital of Rioja. The incident occurred a few days after the murders of the priests Carlos Murias and Gabriel Longueville and the layman Wenceslao Pedernera, all linked to the bishop. Today, by decision of Pope Francis, Angelelli is venerated as a Blessed of the Catholic Church and pointed out as an example of life while the ecclesiastical process that will lead him to be declared a saint continues.

The murder was presented at the time as an accident and it took until 2014 for the Federal Oral Court of La Rioja to issue a sentence declaring that the cleric’s death was a crime against humanity committed in the framework of state terrorism. Luciano Benjamín Menéndez and Luis Fernando Estrella, direct perpetrators of the homicide, were sentenced to life imprisonment.

From his evangelical matrix, Angelelli had become a strong defender of popular causes and a spokesman for the excluded. For this reason he had great recognition from the people of La Rioja, not only from the Christian faithful. His presence annoyed the military dictatorship that same year he had usurped power in the country.

Angelelli’s committed attitude also worried the ecclesiastical institutions at the time headed by Archbishop Raúl Francisco Primatesta, a man on good terms with the dictatorial regime. That’s why the Catholic hierarchy at the time preferred to take for granted the version of accidental death. The cause of beatification of Angelelli and his fellow martyrs was paralyzed for many years and institutionally the local church disregarded the case. Only in 2006, at the initiative of Cardinal Jorge bergoglio the cause was taken up by the Church. That year Bergoglio led a mass in La Rioja for the 30th anniversary of Angelelli’s death and promoted an episcopal commission to investigate what happened. On that occasion, today’s Pope Francis mentioned Angelelli’s “boldness, courage and apostolic endurance”, explicitly referring to “bloodshed” and describing the bishop as “a shepherd who dialogued with his people”. Later Bishop Marcelo Colombo, current vice president of the episcopate, was in charge of the process towards canonization.

Born in Córdoba in 1923, Enrique Angelelli worked as a priest with the Young Catholic Workers (JOC), at the age of 45 he was appointed bishop of La Rioja and as such he participated in the Second Vatican Council, an ecclesial event that began a process renewal of the Catholic Church under the impetus of Pope John XXIII.

Speaking in El Chamical on July 22, 1976, after the murder of his collaborators, the Riojan bishop delivered a homily in which he stated that “this town, like any other in the country, needs pastors who continue to do what Carlos and Gabriel did until now, and what they died for”. And he added that “they have given their lives, not for fools, nor for being naive, but for faith, for serving, for loving, so that we understand what it is to serve, what it is to love, what it is not to be fools.” He also said that “there is no page of the Gospel that commands us to be fools. Christ teaches us to be humble like the dove and cunning like the serpent; he commands us to take up the cross each day and follow him; he commands us to rejoice in persecution; he commands us to be meek of heart, and to have the soul and heart of the poor; He commands us to look for those most in need because they are the privileged of the Lord, and not to reject anyone, because his is the answer for all men and for every man, even if one wants to doubt this truth.”.

In 2019, Pope Francis recognized the “martyrdom” of Angelelli and his companions and on April 27 of the same year a ceremony held in La Rioja served to make the fact visible. A few days earlier, the Argentine bishops expressed “the great joy of the forthcoming beatification of Bishop Enrique Ángel Angelelli, Fray Carlos de Dios Murias, the priest Gabriel Roger Longueville and the layman Wenceslao Pedernera” and thanked “from the heart Pope Francis, who thus collects the discernment of the Church and encourages us to spend our lives in service”.

Before, in 2014, the Oral Federal Criminal Court of La Rioja No. 01, had ruled “with absolute certainty that the cause of death of Bishop Monsignor Enrique Angelelli was doubly qualified homicide due to the premeditated concurrence of two or more people to ensure impunity; according to premeditated action, provoked and executed in the framework of State terrorism, of the last military dictatorship“.

This year the First Civil, Commercial and Mining Chamber of the First Judicial District of La Rioja, decided to order the rectification of the death certificate of Bishop Enrique Angelelli that appeared in the provincial Civil Registry and determined that the case be recorded there. of death as determined by justice.

One of Angelelli’s phrases, with which he is still remembered to this day, is: “with one ear in town and the other in the Gospel.”

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Source: Pagina12

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