Visitors are flocking to the cathedral of San Cristobal de las Casas in the southernmost state of Chiapas to pay their respects to Samuel Ruiz, the man who presided over the local diocese for 40 years. The retired bishop died from heart complications yesterday in a Mexico City hospital at the age of 86.
Over the course of his career, Ruiz won international recognition and numerous awards for his work with the state’s indigenous poor, but he is best known for mediating peace talks between the Mexican government and the Zapatista rebels in the mid 1990s.
Ruiz was a practitioner of Liberation Theology, a school of religious thought that gained popularity among Latin America’s left-leaning clerics in the 1960s and ultimately caused friction with the largely conservative Vatican hierarchy. While his views received criticism from the Mestizo oligarchy in San Cristobal, the bishop earned the respect and admiration of the area’s indigenous majority. Ruiz is often referred to by the title “Tatik”, which means “father” in the local Tzotzil language.
Bishop Emeritus Samuel Ruiz will be buried tomorrow in the grounds of the San Cristobal de las Casas cathedral in accordance with his final wishes.