“Bishop Pagura was one of the pillars of Latin American and world ecumenism in the last fifty years, a faithful and courageous champion of human rights and the cause of peace in Latin America and around the globe”, wrote Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), after the passing of Bishop Emeritus Federico José Pagura, on 6 June, in Argentina.
On the letter addressed to the Evangelical Methodist Church of Argentina (IEMA), Tveit also remembered that already during his bishopric in Costa Rica and Panama, Pagura, who has served as WCC President between 1998 - 2006, was extremely sensible to the social and political changes occurring in the continent.
“Pagura talked about a ‘time of labor’ of Latin American people, awakening up to ‘the dawn of a new liberation’; and preached in his parish a kingdom of God which is embodied and manifested in human history”, wrote the WCC general secretary.
As pastor of the Methodist church in Mendoza, Argentina, Pagura led the reception to Chilean refugees fleeing the coup and the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, and was one of the founders of the Ecumenical Committee for Social Action (CEAS) that welcomed thousands of people of that country- actions deemed intolerable for Argentine rightist elements, who exploded a bomb in Pagura’s church the morning of 4 September 1975.
Elected bishop of the Evangelical Church in Argentina in 1977, Pagura served as an outstanding leader of the Ecumenical Movement for Human Rights (MEDH) and worked closely with the Human Rights Office for Latin American of the World Council of Churches, opposing the blatant violations perpetrated by the Argentinean military dictatorship.
Between 1980 and 1989, Pagura participated in the WCC’s Commission on World Mission and Evangelism, contributing to the debates on mission and the kingdom of God, church of the poor, enculturation of the gospel and interreligious dialogue.
In his seventeen years as president of the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI), Pagura advocated for the need to maintain simultaneously the call to conversion and the new birth in Christ, and the demand for freedom and justice for the peoples of the continent, particularly for the poor and needy.
In 1998, at the WCC’s 8th Assembly, held in Harare, Zimbabwe, Pagura was elected one of the WCC presidents and thereafter he became an active promoter of the Decade for Overcoming Violence in Latin America.
In his letter, Tveit also recalled Pagura as a person of great sensitivity and tenderness. “He has given us songs and poems that speak of their rejection of injustice, of his mourning at the suffering of the poorest and helpless, of the birth pangs of a Latin America continent that yearns to be reborn to a real independence of truly free people”, reads the letter.
“We thank God for the exemplary pastoral, ecumenical and prophetic path of Bishop Pagura, which has been a significant contribution for the discernment of Gods’ Word and Action in our history”, concluded Tveit.
Argentinean Bishop Federico Pagura honored for justice work (WCC news release from 5 November 2012)