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Slain cardinal was conservative power in Mexico.

MEXICO CITY -- The Mexican cardinal killed during a gun battle at the Guadalajara airport May 24 was the conservative head of a diocese known as a repository of traditional Catholicism.

Guadalajara's Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo, 66, his driver and five other bystanders were killed in a shootout, apparently between rival drug gangs. Early reports said Posadas' body contained as many as 14 gunshot wounds.

Posadas "was strongly opposed to the two elements that took his life: drug abuse and guns," commented Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony, who said Posadas was a close friend. The two had worked together in the early 1970s when Posadas headed the Tijuana, Mexico, diocese.

The gun battle that killed Posadas and the others began inside the airport terminal and spilled onto the parking lot. Posadas was there to await the arrival of the Vatican's delegate to Mexico, Archbishop Girolamo Prigione. He was considered part of Prigione's inner circle.

From Tijuana, where he became bishop in 1970, Posadas was named to head the Cuernavaca diocese Dec. 28, 1982, succeeding Bishop Sergio Mendes Arceo, the renowned liberal some called Mexico's "red bishop."

Posadas, an opponent of liberation theology, immediately banned Christian base communities -- the name and the reality -- from the Cuernavaca diocese, Bill Coleman of Cuernavaca told NCR. Posadas preferred "biblical reflection groups," so the base communities continued under that label, said Coleman, an American who has worked for years with Cuernavaca's poor.

Posadas moved to conservative Guadalajara as archbishop in 1987 and became a cardinal in 1991. When he died, he was vice president of the Mexican bishops' conference and first vice president of CELAM, the Latin American bishops' conference.

Among his interests, said Coleman, was achieving better rapport between the church and Mexico's governing party. That was the object of Pope John Paul's visit to Mexico last year, he said, and it led to initial concessions: Priests could wear roman collars and nuns don habits after decades when these were banned.

The pope, in telegrams to the Mexican bishops last week, said he was deeply saddened by the slaying of "an exemplary pastor," and he condemned acts "which attack the social harmony and Christian tradition of the beloved Mexican people."

Both Coleman and San Francisco journalist John Ross, who has reported on Mexico for decades, said the multiple wounds in Posada's body, most in the throat and chest, gave rise to questions about whether the death was accidental.

Growing violence in Guadalajara has included virtual daily execution-style murders which appear to be linked to infighting among rival organized crime families, commented Fr. Adalberto Gonzalez, archdiocesan spokesman.

Jalisco state Gov. Carlos Aceves said state law enforcement authorities were "carrying out an in-depth investigation in coordination with the federal attorney general's office."

Guadalajara's Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Guadalupe Martin Rabago said the city, long considered the stronghold of drug lords in western Mexico, is "living in the midst of a radical kind of violence," with public order rapidly deteriorating.

Ross called Posadas' death an "astounding event" that could influence U.S. discussions about the North American Free Trade Agreement, especially because it came on the heels of a New York Times revelation that Colombians are buying truck lines and setting up manufacturing plants along the U.S.-Mexican border. This would enable them, under NAFTA, "to just drive right into the U.S.," Ross said.

During the Mexican bishops' conference meeting this spring, Posadas said in relation to NAFTA that Mexico was becoming a country of "the very few rich and very many poor."
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Title Annotation:Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Biography
Date:Jun 4, 1993
Words:587
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