Cardinal Arizmendi: Christmas in a country of contrasts

Let us give glory to God, let us recognize him as the Lord, let us build peace, family and social harmony

Cardinal Felipe Arizmendi, bishop emeritus of San Cristóbal de Las Casas and responsible for the Doctrine of Faith at the Conference of the Mexican Episcopate (CEM), offers Exaudi readers his weekly article titled “Christmas in a country of contrasts.”



On the occasion of the festivities of the Virgin of Guadalupe, last December 12, millions of Mexicans expressed, some to the point of heroism, their love for the Guadalupan lady. Not only were countless people who visited her basilica in Mexico City in those days, but manifestations of this devotion overflowed in all corners of the country. In most homes, its image is not missing. Many carry it on a little card, or around their neck as a scapular. However, the contrast is that, in this country that is considered mostly Catholic, and almost all believers of some Christian denomination, crimes are increasing everywhere, especially extortion, without the authority being able to achieve a significant decrease. Why is this a contradiction? Our faith guides us to believe firmly in God, to strive to put into practice his commandments, particularly the love of our nighbors, but armed groups do not give God the place he deserves, and they dedicate themselves to harming everyone. Most of these criminals consider themselves believers, but their works contradict them.

On the occasion of Christmas, the vast majority celebrate this holiday; decorate their houses, at least with the tree; many put the Nativity. Everyone wishes each other happy holidays, even if they only classify them as December holidays, at the end of the year… Much give each other gifts and some go on vacation. All this is for the Birth of Jesus; However, many do not take it into account. There is no shortage of those who make these days consist of excesses of all kinds, especially intoxicating drinks. And if the Birth of Jesus brings a message of Glory to God in heaven and on earth, peace to those who the Lord loves!, in practice we do not give glory to God, nor do we live in a serene and calm peace. Our towns, and also cities, have lost their traditional peace. Is that Christmas?

We are in the midst of campaigns towards the Presidency of the Republic, towards some governorships, senatorial positions and federal deputies, and the majority of the candidates are officially Catholic, or at least Christian, however, his religious faith almost does not appear. In their speeches and propaganda, what is most abundant are arguments for people to vote for them, disqualifications towards their adversaries, pacts with different people or groups, in some cases even with criminals. They hardly go to Mass and Sunday worship, because their campaigns have them obsessed. Are they really believers?

These and other aspects of our national situation worry us and can rob us of hope. We may think that nothing can be done to change the situation, or leave everything to the government in power, when it has been shown that authority is exceeded by the prevailing reality. Their speeches repeat daily that we are doing well, that the people are happy, that their party is the solution to the problems. And how many people still believe him! The facts say the opposite.


The Mexican episcopate, in its message for this Christmas, says: “Mexico faces enormous challenges that hurt and worry us: violence, corruption, inequalities, political polarization, unemployment, so many families that cannot get ahead. But we cannot remain in sterile pessimism or destructive fatalism. As Christians, we are called to see beyond, to turn on that “gentle light” of hope that Pope Francis tells us about. And the foundation of that hope is precisely faith in that Child God who is born today, in whom is inaugurated, in the words of the Second Vatican Council, “a new and definitive alliance” that “renews all things” (LG 1 and 9). He is the living token of God’s endearing love for humanity. In Him, we find the certainty that the peace, justice and fraternity we long for are possible if we open ourselves decisively to his transforming grace.”

And Pope Francis, in his recent Message Urbi et Orbi (to the City and the World), states: “In the midst of the darkness of the earth, today in Bethlehem an inextinguishable flame has been lit; In the midst of the darkness of the world, today the light of God prevails, which “enlightens every man” (Jn 1:9). Let us rejoice in this grace! Rejoice, you who have lost confidence and certainties, because you are not alone: Christ was born for you! Rejoice, you who have abandoned hope, because God extends his hand to you; He does not point his finger at you, but rather he offers you his little Child’s hand to free you from your fears, to relieve you of your fatigue and to show you that in his eyes you are valuable like no other. Rejoice, you who do not find peace in your heart, because the ancient prophecy of Isaiah has been fulfilled: “A child has been born to us, a son has been given to us, and he is called the Prince of Peace” (9, 5). Scripture reveals that his peace and his kingdom will have no end (cf. 9:6)”.

And later he adds: “Isaiah, who prophesied to the Prince of Peace, wrote about a day when «one nation will not lift a sword against another»; of a day in which men «will no longer train for war», but «will forge plowshares with their swords and spears with their spears» (2:4). With God’s help, let’s get to work so that day comes”.


Let us be consistent with our faith and make the Christmas message a reality: Let us give glory to God, let us recognize him as Lord, let us worship him reverently, and let us build peace, family and social harmony, respecting each other and doing good around us.​