Bishop Onesimo Cepeda Silva of Ecatepec, Mexico photo from mexfiles.net

Vatican OKs resignation of Mexican bishop who rubbed elbows with elite

By  David Agren, Catholic News Service
  • May 7, 2012

MEXICO CITY - The Vatican has accepted the resignation of Bishop Onesimo Cepeda Silva of Ecatepec.

Bishop Cepeda, who submitted his resignation when he turned 75, in accordance with canon law, counted billionaires among his best friends and became one of the most polemic people in Mexican public life for his perceived relationships with the political elite.

He transitioned from an early career in banking to being bishop of Ecatepec, a sprawling suburb on the northeastern fringes of Mexico City housing the armies of maids, gardeners and construction workers who commute long distances to work in the nearby capital.

"I'm a rich bishop among the poor," Bishop Cepeda told the newspaper Reforma in 2007.

Bishop Cepeda also studied law before entering the priesthood at 33. He frequently appeared in the society pages, where he professed a love of golf -- in a country with no public courses, and politicians and business leaders would be shown attending his birthday parties.

Carlos Slim Helu, the man Forbes magazine considers the wealthiest in the world, and another Mexican billionaire, Alfredo Harp Helu, were "lifelong friends," Bishop Cepeda told Reforma.

Bishop Cepeda also served in the Diocese of Cuernavaca, where he was known for finding the funds to complete church projects, Reforma reported. In 1995, he was appointed the first bishop in the new Diocese of Ecatepec, where a new cathedral was built.

His role in a legal dispute involving an art collection worth more than $100 million generated scandalous headlines until he was absolved in late 2011.

President Felipe Calderon criticized Bishop Cepeda during a June 2011 meeting with the country's burgeoning victims' rights movement for writing a letter in support of Tijuana gambling impresario Jorge Hank Rhon, who was arrested after soldiers found a cache of weapons in his home.

Church observer Ilan Semo of the Jesuit-run Iberoamerican University said Bishop Cepeda drew criticism from the left because he showed little interest in subjects such as human rights and democracy and was considered close with the anti-clerical Institutional Revolutionary Party -- known for corruption and excess in past years -- which governed until 2000.

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