GUATEMALA CITY – A beloved statue of Jesus looked likely to get an unsolicited promotion to general in the Guatemalan Army — until the church and president stepped in, officials said Saturday.
The statue, known as Jesus de la Merced, is paraded through the streets of the capital ahead of Easter in a centuries-old tradition brought in by former colonial power Spain.
The local parish priest in the neighborhood church where the statue is kept, Orlando Aguilar, said in a Christmas Eve mass that on Jan. 3 the statue would be promoted to the rank of general in the Guatemalan Army.
Many in the local media got rumors buzzing, and suggested that the honor was to be conferred ahead of the 300th anniversary of the blessing of the statue in 2017.
But the capital’s bishop was up-in-arms.
“Brothers and sisters, as I have said and repeated many times, nobody consulted me about ascending Jesus de la Merced to the rank of general in the army,” Archbishop Oscar Vian said on Twitter.
It’s not the first military promotion given to the statue.
During devastating cholera outbreaks in the 1800s, then-President Rafael Carrera (1854-1865) gave the statue the rank of army colonel, and it was marched around Guatemala in an effort to combat cholera.
President Alejandro Maldonado said that he had not approved the promotion to general of the statue.
“As armed forces commander general, I have not sought to grant this symbolic rank to the religious symbol,” he said, stressing that he would never sign one unless Roman Catholic authorities had given their approval.