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April 28, 1998

I was deeply dismayed to learn about the assassination of Monsignor Juan Josť Gerardi, Auxiliary Bishop of Guatemala, who was one of the most ardent promoters of human rights in that Central American nation.

Monsignor Gerardi played a key role in defending human rights in Guatemala and, according to information received from the Guatemalan capital, he was assassinated shortly after delivering a report entitled "Guatemala: Never Again," which examined the grave human rights violations committed during the many years of armed confrontation in Guatemala.

I share the pain being felt at this time not only by the Guatemalan people in general, but also by their religious leaders and all those who work for world peace and justice. Furthermore, I call on the government authorities to do everything within their power to find the perpetrators of this premeditated and cruel assassination, meting out the appropriate punishment provided for under the law.

Monsignor Gerardi has left an indelible mark that will not disappear into oblivion. His perseverance and tenacity in repudiating outrageous violations of the most basic of human rights --such as the right to life and freedom of expression-- will continue to guide his followers, who remain vigilant against any assault upon human dignity.

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