Passionist order supports priest charged in Peru land battle

ROME (CNS) — A Passionist missionary on trial in Peru for allegedly inciting a riot has ministered constantly among the poor and has worked tirelessly to defend their rights, including the right to care for the land they have been farming to support their families, said the superior general and top officers of the Passionist order.

Italian Passionist Father Mario Bartolini, who has ministered in Peru for more than 35 years, was awaiting sentencing on charges that he incited riots in the spring of 2009 in Barranquita, a town in Peru’s Amazon region.

Small farmers in the area have been protesting plans to displace them, clear the land and plant hundreds of acres of palm trees for a palm oil biodiesel project.

In a letter to Father Bartolini, released by the Passionist headquarters Oct. 24, the superior general of the order and provincial superiors from around the world encouraged the priest “to continue with your mission and maintain your peace of mind and serenity in the midst of all that is happening to you.”

The Passionist order, it said, appreciates the work he is doing “in defense of the peasants’ land in the Amazon region of Peru.”