A life dedicated to the most disadvantaged

50 years after the death of Father Carlos Múgica

Joaquim Magalhães de Castro

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the murder of Father Carlos Múgica, an excerpt from the letter of the Holy Father Francisco was read during the solemn Eucharistic concelebration, held on May 12, at the Luna Park stadium in Buenos Aires, a ceremony presided over by the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge García Cuerva, and concelebrated, among others, by the president of the Argentine Episcopal Conference, Oscar Ojea, and by Monsignor Gustavo Carrara, vicar general of the archdiocese.

In this letter, the Bishop of Rome urges us to strengthen “in each neighborhood a community that organizes itself to accompany the lives of our people”, and challenges us to fight against all types of injustice, and to maintain an intelligent dialogue with the State and society. He also reminds us that we must not allow ourselves to be carried away by ideological colonization, nor by the culture of indifference. In short: “We ask the Lord that the principles of the Social Doctrine of the Church bear fruit in our communities and, through them, throughout the nation.”

The Holy Father also emphasizes in this letter that any ecclesiastical celebration is “much more than a historical commemoration”; it is, in fact, an opportunity to renew our fraternal and committed presence “with those who carry heavy crosses”. Francis exhorts and encourages us, therefore, to continue to place ourselves body and soul alongside “those who suffer from all types of poverty”, to seek places of integration, excluding those who disqualify others, to bridge the gap existing “not through silence and complicity, but by looking into each other’s eyes, recognizing mistakes and eradicating exclusion”.

In his homily, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge García Cuerva, recalled that Father Carlos was “a Pastor of the Church who dedicated his life to Jesus and the Gospel, in the convulsive and violent Argentina of the 1960s and 1970s”. Then, inspired by a prayer by Father Múgica, “Meditacion en la villa”, he took the opportunity to highlight some aspects of reality that remain current 50 years later: the situation of children and young people, drug trafficking, poverty, hatred social situation, confrontations, corruption, individualism, injustice, hunger…

Father Carlos Múgica’s faith led him to the frequent and profound experience of prayer; an aspect that many of those who admired his activity and kindness did not appreciate. Fifty years later – remembers Dom Jorge García Cuerva in his homily – “we came to ask for God’s help, because we recognize, like Carlos, our fragility. We are not heroes. We are men and women of faith who want to be faithful to the Gospel; We cannot do it alone, and that is why, like Father Múgica, we say: ‘Help us, Lord, don’t let us fall’”.

Father Carlos Múgica (born in Buenos Aires on October 7, 1930; died on May 11, 1974) came from a wealthy family. He would enroll in law school, but soon after a visit to Rome, “for the Jubilee in 1950”, he felt God’s call and entered the Seminary. Ordained a priest nine years later, he spent the first days of his ministry among the most disadvantaged families in popular neighborhoods. Once a university professor, he would become famous for his weekly homilies broadcast on municipal radio.

He founded the Third World Priests Movement and the “Cura Villeros” movement. The personal positions and the government positions he held provoked criticism in the most conservative Argentine newspapers, and even from some clergy. He was even the target of threats to his life. On May 11, 1974, Father Carlos had just celebrated Mass when Rodolfo Almirón, an agent of the Argentine Anticommunist Alliance (AAA), fired five shots at him. Urgently taken to a nearby hospital, the priest would succumb to his injuries shortly afterwards.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the tragic death of Father Carlos, a series of events took place during the so-called “Month of Mugica” under the motto: “Father Múgica lives in the hearts of his people”. A video was also produced about his life.

“That night, 50 years ago, after celebrating Mass, after drinking the blood of Christ from the chalice, Father Múgica also shed his blood for his friends,” recalled Dom Gustavo Carrara, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires during the mass he celebrated on May 11 in the Cristo Obrero parish, where, since 1999, the priest’s mortal remains have been buried. On the same day, another celebration took place in the parish of São Francisco Solano, in the Villa Luro neighborhood, where the priest was murdered. “Father Carlos Múgica was not just generous with the poorest, he was generous with everyone,” said Dom Carrara.

The true evangelical approach is not just about being generous, but about fostering friendship, about sharing life. “That’s why Father Carlos gave his life for his friends, he gave his life for this neighborhood, he gave his life for the cause of the poorest and most humble. And this is his legacy,” concludes Dom Carrara.