Mexican Bishop & Maya Indians Champion Samuel Ruiz Dies, 86

For 40 years as a bishop in Mexico’s impoverished Chiapas state, Samuel Ruiz championed the rights of the long-suffering Maya Indians who dominate the lush region. He learned their languages and adopted their customs into Roman Catholic practice.

He also made powerful enemies among rich landowners, Mexican governments and even the Vatican. He mediated the Zapatista peasant revolt of the 1990s and was both praised for helping to avoid wider bloodshed and criticized for supposedly inciting the rebels in the first place.

Ruiz died Monday in Mexico City after a long illness and complications from diabetes, church officials announced. He was 86.

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