On October 27 of this year, we had the great blessing of the Church to witness the Beatification of Br. Tulio Maruzzo and layman Luis Obdulio Arroyo Navarro in Izabal, Guatemala..
Homily of Cardinal Giovanni Ángelo Becciu
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The comforting word of Jesus resounded in our assembly: “Blessed are the poor in the spirit, blessed are those who work for peace, blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of justice” (Mt 5:3, 9, 10). These promises of happiness have been fully fulfilled in the martyrs Father Tullio Maruzzo and Luis Obdulio Arroyo Navarro.
That is why today we honor them with the title of Blessed and that the whole Church in Guatemala is celebrating! One was a Franciscan priest and religious, of the lesser friars, and the other a faithful lay catechist.
However, they shared essential features of spirituality: the simple and cheerful lifestyle, typical of those who are poor in spirit; the ardent zeal for the Gospel, which sustains those who work for peace; the attentive care of the poor and the courageous defense of the last, which distinguish men of good will. These are traits that constitute for us a message that is still current.
The new Blesseds reached the goal of their Christian vocation through the great tribulation of the world. Now we recognize them as participants in the eternal liturgy of heaven, described in the second reading, formed by a multitude “of all nations, races, peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes and with palms in his hands” (see Rev. 7:9).
Blessed Tullio Maruzzo is a gift from God to your earth, he is the good shepherd that the Father sent to take care of his flock, to give his life. He had left his hometown, Lapio di Arcugnano, in Italy, to be a witness of the Gospel among you.
Of a kind nature, at the time that, decided he found inspiration and strength for his pastoral action in an intense inner life. So says one witness: “Where did you find so much energy, Father Tullio, who seemed so fragile? He prayed, he meditated ... It was enough to be with him someday to realize that he was a man of strong apostolic dynamism, because he lived by the faith he preached.”
Not only that, but he also obtained the strength to live with the brothers, with whom he was always positive; he knew how to find in each one of them the “gold nugget,” that is, the good. He said, “How much does it cost to exalt the good that a brother does? Nothing! But the brother will feel happy because someone appreciates and values his work.”
He, as a good missionary, zealous and courageous, had moved to unknown and inaccessible places in the Apostolic Vicariate of Izabal to make known the Word of God. He left nothing untreated: the formation of the catechists, the care of the base communities, the love for the poor and for the sick. In short, the typical missionary who is guided by the creative imagination of the Spirit to develop an effective and generous pastoral action.
Blessed Luis Obdulio Arroyo Navarro was the faithful companion that the Lord placed next to Father Tullio at the hour of martyrdom. It is the ripe fruit of your Church of Izabal, which you gather in the year in which you solemnly celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the erection of the Vicariate! He is the first blessed martyr native of Guatemala! This Blessed is also presented to us as a humble and helpful man. The witnesses remember him as a man who, without making a noise, knew how to find the concrete answer to the problems of the community, making available his time and his capacities.
He was always available to transport a wounded man or woman in labor to the hospital, even at night; offered to perform small electrical and mechanical repairs; but his specialty was to become a driver for the Franciscan fathers and the nuns when they had to travel to the more remote villages of Quiriguá.
In his spiritual journey, Luis Obdulio chose to be part of the Christian community in an increasingly committed way by joining the Franciscan Third Order and the Cursillo of Christianity movement. In this way, he prepared himself for what would be the total gift of himself, in martyrdom. Together with this dimension of profoundly evangelical service, what uniquely characterizes the new Blessed is the Christian virtue of fortitude. We know precisely what his state of mind and his inner decision were when the dark clouds loomed over the Christian community. A witness says: “I knew that the father (Tulio) was in danger, but he did not show fear. When the family warned him and asked him not to go out with the father, he said: “I prefer to die beside Father Tulio and not next to a drunkard in a canteen or in a bar.”
The circumstances of the martyrdom of Father Tullio and Luis Obdulio are well known. The death was violently inflicted on them by the murderers because of hatred of Christ and the Gospel. Father Tullio was sensitive to the suffering of the poor peasants, who, by the abuse of a few large landowners, were day after day dispossessed of the land that they were earning with effort for cultivation.
Consequently, he chose to alleviate growing poverty, to console the discouraged and, above all, to enlighten consciences in order to reaffirm clearly the rights of justice according to the teaching of Jesus. His pastoral action assumed the value of a prophetic and courageous denunciation of the abuses of the local powerful, for which his social work was considered subversive; but he continued to develop his apostolic activity without fearing for his life.
The painful epilogue took place on the afternoon of July 1, 1981, when at the end of an intense day of apostolic work, while returning to the parish with the faithful Luis Obdulio, the car in which they were traveling was arrested, forcing them to descend, mortally shot and abandoned on the side of the road.
What is the message that Blessed Tullio Maruzzo and Luis Obdulio Arroyo Navarro leave us? First of all, in this month of October dedicated to the missions, a grateful and sincere memory springs forth spontaneously to all the missionaries who, like Father Maruzzo, have left their homeland and have given their lives to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus. Secondly, in the martyrdom of our two brothers, the prophecy of Tertullian is confirmed: the blood of the martyrs is the seed of a new life! Already shortly after the death of Father Tullio and Luis Obdulio, the faithful of Quiriguá, of Los Amates, of Morales, observed the fruits: the Christian awakening of the community, the perseverance in the trials, the unity and the best organization of the parish groups; new priestly and religious vocations.
This work of renewal of the Church, which was impelled by the testimony of the two new Blesseds, is also necessary and urgent in our days. You are called to guard the good fruits ripened in the blood of these martyrs: their spiritual heritage belongs above all to you!
Today’s Beatification constitutes for the Christian community of Izabal and throughout Guatemala a unique moment of grace from which a more authentic conversion can be born. At this moment in your history, you are committed, under the guidance of your bishops, to the realization of a profound spiritual renewal of your parishes, desired by your prelates.
Remember that there is no change of structures without the conversion of hearts and that a parish is not a true parish if it does not become a place of fraternal encounter among all its members. It must be “the house and the school of communion” (cf. Novo Millennio Ineunte, nn 43-47), where each one can experience in a concrete way the reciprocal love and be a visible sign of the Kingdom that is already among us.
Never lose sight of the ideal for which Blessed Father Tullio and Blessed Luis Obdulio have given their lives: to show the face of a Church a sign of hope and rich in the love of God that embraces all, but above all, the discarded ones, the oppressed.
Let us invoke his intercession, so that his martyrdom may promote in everyone the courage of Christian witness, the coherence of life and the unlimited devotion to others.
Let’s repeat together: Blessed Father Tullio and Blessed Luis Obdulio, pray for us!