MEXICO CITY -- Retired Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia, known as the champion of the poor and indigenous in southern Mexico, died Jan. 24 of complications from long-standing illnesses. He was 86.
The bishop headed the Diocese of San Cristobal de Las Casas from 1960 to 2000, and from 1994 to 1998 mediated a commission looking for an end to the conflict between the Mexican government and the indigenous Zapatista National Liberation Army in Chiapas state.
For his work with the state's indigenous population he received death threats and, in 2002, was the recipient of the Niwano Peace Prize for his work "raising the social standing of the indigenous communities of Mexico" and for his work toward "the reclamation and preservation of their native cultures."
"Don Samuel was like the prophet Jeremiah, a man who lived and experienced contradiction," said Bishop Raul Vera Lopez of Saltillo, who served as Bishop Ruiz's coadjutor from 1995 to 1999.