AMERICA/ARGENTINA - The grateful memory of Father Carlos Múgica remains in the hearts of his people, 50 years after his assassination

Monday, 13 May 2024

by Stefano Lodigiani

Buenos Aires (Agenzia Fides) - “Father Carlos still urges us today to strengthen in each neighborhood a community that organizes itself to accompany the life of our people, and he challenges us to fight against all types of injustice, to maintain an intelligent dialogue with the State and society. He teaches us not to let ourselves be carried away by ideological colonization, nor by the culture of indifference. We ask the Lord that the principles of the Social Doctrine of the Church bear fruit in our communities and, through them, throughout the nation.” This is an extract from the letter of the Holy Father Francis for the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Father Carlos Múgica, which was read during the solemn Eucharistic concelebration held on Sunday, May 12 at the Luna Park stadium in Buenos Aires. Aires, presided over by the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge García Cuerva, and concelebrated, among others, by the president of the Argentine Episcopal Conference, Oscar Ojea, and Monsignor Gustavo Carrara, vicar general of the archdiocese. The Bishop of Rome underlines in his letter that any ecclesial celebration is “much more than a historical commemoration”, it is in fact an opportunity to renew our fraternal and committed presence “with those who carry heavy crosses”. Francis therefore urges and encourages us to continue to place ourselves body and soul alongside “those who suffer from all kinds of poverty”, to seek places of integration by excluding those who disqualify others, to bridge the existing gap “not through silence and complicity, but by looking each other in the eye, recognizing mistakes and eradicating exclusion.” In his homily, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge García Cuerva, recalled that Father Carlos was “the Pastor of the Church who dedicated his life to Jesus and the Gospel, in the convulsive and violent Argentina of the 1960s and 1970s. He then took inspiration from a prayer by Father Mugica, “Meditacion en la villa”, to highlight certain aspects of reality which remain relevant 50 years later: the situation of children and young people, drug trafficking, poverty, social hatred, clashes, corruption, individualism, injustice, hunger... “Help me”. Carlos Mugica therefore simply asked the Lord," concluded the Archbishop. His faith led him to the frequent and profound experience of prayer; an aspect which many of those who admired his activity and kindness did not appreciate; were perhaps not conscious; the long moments spent in front of the Tabernacle in humble and hidden prayer. Fifty years later, during this Mass, we come to ask God's help, because we recognize, like Carlos, our fragility. We are not heroes. We are men and women of faith who want to be faithful to the Gospel; we cannot do it on our own, and that is why, with Father Mugica, we say : “Help us, Lord, do not let us fall: Help us Lord, do not let us fall from your hands. We need you so much.” Father Carlos Múgica was an Argentine priest (born October 7, 1930, died May 11, 1974), belonging to the clergy of Buenos Aires. He came from an upper-class family, after enrolling in law school, he felt his calling after visiting Rome for the Jubilee in 1950 and entered the Seminary. He was ordained a priest in 1959. He spent his first days of ministry mainly among families in working-class and less developed neighborhoods. A university teacher, he also became famous for his weekly homilies broadcast on the municipal radio station. He founded the Third World Priests Movement and the “Cura Villeros” movement. His positions and the government positions he holds earned him criticism from the most conservative Argentine newspapers and even from some of the clergy. In the climate of strong opposition at the time, he was also the subject of threats. On Saturday May 11, 1974, Father Carlos had just celebrated mass when Rodolfo Almirón, an agent of the Argentine Anti-Communist Alliance (AAA), fired five shots in his direction. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries shortly after. His remains have rested in the parish of Cristo Obrero since 1999. Pope Francis said of him: "He was a great priest who fought for justice." To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the tragic death of Father Carlos, a series of events was organized and began a month ago, on April 11, in the parish of Cristo Obrero. During what was called the “Month of Mugica”, events, masses, celebrations and popular expressions were organized in memory of the Argentine priest. A summary video was also made on his life and ends with the motto of this “Mugica Month”: “Father Mugica lives in the hearts of his people”. “That evening, 50 years ago, after celebrating Mass, after drinking the blood of Christ from the chalice, Father Múgica also shed his blood for his friends,” recalled Msgr. Gustavo Carrara, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, during the Mass he celebrated at 6 p.m., Saturday, May 11, in the Cristo Obrero parish, next to the priest's tomb. On the same day, another suffrage celebration took place in the parish of San Francisco Solano, in the Villa Luro neighborhood, where the priest was murdered. “Father Carlos Múgica was not only generous with the poorest, and he was,” said Msgr. Carrara, “but he was much more deeply evangelical, because he was a friend of the poorest. The true Evangelical approach is not only to be generous, but to enter into friendship, to share life. This is why Father Carlos gave his life for his friends, gave his life for this neighborhood, gave his life for the cause of the poorest and most humble. And that is his legacy. (Agenzia Fides, 13/5/2024)