On Saturday, an estimated 40,000 people attended the fifth Walk for Peace in Mexico, organized by the Diocese of Cuernavaca, with the goal of stopping the growing wave of violence caused by the country’s major crime gangs.

The tens of thousands of attendees, most of them dressed in white, began the walk around 9:00 a.m. local time from Our Lady of Miracles parish in Tlatenango, Cuernavaca, to the Plaza de Armas, where Mass was celebrated.

“The reality of the suffering of our people demands of us, without a doubt, an attitude of co-responsibility for this reality that we are facing…Before this bloody holocaust of violence we must not be filled with fear. Even though it is a complicated reality, a prophetic Church is required,” said Bishop Ramón Castro of Cuernavaca in his address to the large crowd.

The prelate also called the main crime gangs to conversion and to remember that the violence also affects their families.

“To the principal cartels that operate in our state…you also are sons of God and, despite everything, the Lord loves you. But it's never too late to make things right and be converted!” he said.

“Violence engenders violence and your fighting over territory, drug distribution, money laundering, arms trafficking, not only harms society but also your own children, brothers and parents. For their sake, for the fear of God, we entreat you: be converted, it's never too late, it's always possible, and may we all be converted into a new culture of peace,” the bishop said.

In his talk, Castro pointed to the troubling statistics that position their state as one of the most dangerous in all of Mexico.

Violence in Morelos state – of which Cuernavaca is the capital – is high, with 14,479 crimes recorded in the first four months of 2019. Out of that figure, 404 crimes were homicides.

In the country overall, some 8,500 intentional homicides were recorded in the first quarter of 2019, an increase of almost 10% compared to the same period in 2018.

The bishop of Cuernavaca also warned that half of the state’s municipalities are forced to pay money to the criminal gangs, and that citizens' fear of reporting crime is increased when they know the police may be in collusion with organized crime.

At the end of the walk, Castro said on Twitter that the walk allowed for an experience of grace and community.

“Our people have felt the refreshing breeze of their Lord. Thousands of people united to strengthen their faith and hope! Violence and hatred don't have the last word! Take courage!” the bishop said.


This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.