Roman Catholicism in Guatemala
The Catholic Church in Guatemala is part of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church, under spiritual leadership of the Pope, Curia in Rome. There are approximately 5 million Catholics in Guatemala, which is about 50-60% of the total population. Being the dominant religion in the area for centuries, Guatemala is seeing an influx of Protestantism.
- 1 History
- 2 Turmoil in Guatemala
- 3 Organization of the Roman Catholic Church in Guatemala
- 4 References
- 5 See Also
Introduction of Protestantism
Historically, Guatemala has been predominately Roman Catholic. Beginning in 1959, after Fidel Castro began the Cuban Revolution, the Vatican became increasingly aware of the number of Protestant missionaries traveling to Latin America. Following this realization, several Catholic priests and missionaries traveled to Latin America to increase the number of priests and baptized Latinos. Over the past few decades, Protestantism has grown throughout the area. Guatemala currently contains the largest amount of Protestants (approximately 40%)  than any other Latin American country. The largest Protestant denominations present in Guatemala today are Presbyterians, Pentecostals, Lutherans, Baptists, and Episcopalians. Protestants first began to arrive in Guatemala in 1882 as a result of President Rufino Barrios desire to challenge the power of the Roman Catholic Church. He invited several Presbyterian, Methodist and Baptist missionaries, but only when Pentecostal missionaries arrived from the United States did Guatemala see an influx in Protestant converts.
Charismatic Catholics is a religious movement that strives to increase the number of Catholic converts. Its members in Guatemala increase the numbers of Catholics in Latin America with the help of social organizations, missionaries, and clergy. In the mid twentieth century, Catholic Guatemalans feared that Catholicism would become the minority to Protestantism. Many Catholics began converting to Protestantism instead during this time period. Also, there were very few native Guatemalan priests because this job was mostly taken up by missionaries from the United States. The Charismatic Catholics bounced back with a large number of foreign missionaries, an increase in Guatemalan priests, and other lay revitalization within the Church as a whole. They believed that "the quest for identity was important and difficult" in the changing modern times.
Status of Religious Freedom
There is no state religion in Guatemala, however the Guatemalan Constitution recognizes the legitimacy of the Roman Catholic Church. The constitution also provides freedom of religion to all of its citizens, and the government protects and honors this law. Although the Roman Catholic Church is the only religion recognized by the Guatemalan Constitution, any other religious affiliation can file a copy of its bylaws and a list of its initial membership to the Ministry of Government in order to receive recognition. The only requirement of the Guatemalan government is that each religious affiliation register as legal entities if they want to participate in business of any kind. Applicants are rejected if "the organization does not appear to be devoted to a religious objective, appears to be in pursuit of illegal activities, or engages in activities that appear likely to threaten the public order." .
San Andrés Xécul Church
The San Andrés Xecul is a Catholic church in the Western Highland of Guatemala built in 1900. It is painted in baroque style architecture, and was restored in 2008. The outside walls of the church contain 200 painted sculptures of humans, angels, monkeys, fruit, corn, and birds of all different colors. These images are important to Mayan people who live in this region because it contains many agricultural images which symbolize this regions main source of economy. Also, the design of the outside of the San Andrés Xécul is similar to the huipils worn by Guatemala women. Inside the church there are chandeliers made from glass stone, coins, rosary beads, candles, and other depictions and sculptures of Christ.
Turmoil in Guatemala
Social Discrimination and Disputes
There have been several disputes between Roman Catholics and the indigenous Mayan people. Many Roman Catholic Churches had been built on ancient Mayan sites during the Spanish colonization of the Americas which has upset the Mayan people not only because it is their land, but because several Roman Catholic priests don't allow the Mayan people to access this land at all. Also, many Evangelical Protestants refuse to converse about any topics. Representatives from Roman Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, and Mayan spirituality meets every two-three months out of the year at the Interreligious Dialogue at the Foro Guatemala to discuss several select topics such as social and political issues. Also, beginning in the 1960s, Catholic bishops and priests have joined together to work with indigenous Mayan people to create a basis of local leadership, improve health and education, and also organize cooperatives.
Revolution and Disaster
During the 1960s, revolutionary upheaval began in Guatemala City. After the armed movement was put down by the Guatemalan Army, the movement came back stronger than before. It was now called the Guerilla Army of the Poor, and began violently killing thousands of indigenous Mayans and burning their villages through the country's western highlands. The Guerilla Army of the Poor targeted mostly Catholic priests and church workers throughout their destruction. Guatemala again experienced more destruction in 1976 when an earthquake took the lives of 20,000 people and injured 80,000 more. The Roman Catholic Church in Guatemala began to fear further destruction, and asked for assistance from the United States and several other European countries.
Organization of the Roman Catholic Church in Guatemala
- Archdiocese of Guatemala
- Archdiocese of Los Altos Quetzaltenango-Totonicapán
- "Guatemala: International Religious Freedom Report 2006". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 2011.
- Duffey, Michael K. "Religious diversity, societal change, and ecumenical prospects in Guatemala.". Journal of Ecumenical Studies. Retrieved 2011.
- Cleary, Edward, L. (2011). Charismatic Catholicism in Latin America. Gainsville, FL: University Press of Florida.
- "San Andrés Xecul Church". Sacred Destinations. Retrieved 6 December 2011.
- Duffey, Michael K. "Religious diversity, societal change, and ecumenical prospects in Guatemala.". Journal of Ecumenical Studies. Retrieved 2009.
- "Guatemala: All Dioceses". Catholic-Hierarchy. Retrieved 5 December 2011.