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Wednesday, April 29, 1998 Published at 21:24 GMT 22:24 UK

World: Americas

Huge crowds attend funeral of murdered bishop
image: [ The Archbishop of Guatemala City, Prospero Penados, heads Bishop Gerardi's funeral procession ]
The Archbishop of Guatemala City, Prospero Penados, heads Bishop Gerardi's funeral procession

Thousands of mourners have packed the cathedral in Guatemala City for the funeral of Bishop Juan Gerardi, the human rights campaigner who was beaten to death on Sunday.

Among the congregation were politicians, businessmen and Indian peasants.

[ image: The funeral was attended by thousands]
The funeral was attended by thousands
During the service, Bishop Victor Flores said Bishop Gerardi had sought to break the painful silence surrounding the atrocities committed during Guatemala's 36 year civil conflict.

Overnight, a huge crowd marched by candlelight through the streets as part of three days of national mourning.

Clutching red carnations, mourners filed past the main cathedral, where the body of Bishop Gerardi lies in an open coffin.

There were tearful tributes and calls for the bishop's killers to be brought to justice.

Throughout the city, black bows hang from doors and windows in homage to the bishop.

[ image: Bishop Juan Gerardi, a leading human rights activist]
Bishop Juan Gerardi, a leading human rights activist
His murder took place two days after the bishop presented the results of an investigation into human rights abuses committed during the country's civil war, which formally ended after 36 years of bloodshed in 1996.

Police say the motive for the attack is still unclear but the BBC's correspondent In Guatemala says that many of the bishop's friends and colleagues believe he was killed for having criticised the government's wartime atrocities.

His report accused the Guatemalan army and police of having killed more than 100,000 unarmed civilians.

The report sought to challenge the terms of the 1996 peace accord signed by the government and left-wing rebels, which granted anonymity and a partial amnesty for war criminals on both sides.

Throughout his life, Bishop Gerardi believed that without truth there could be no lasting peace.

He has now been dubbed the Martyr of Truth by the Catholic Church

Correspondents say many Guatemalans are now wondering what kind of peace they can hope for when the bishop's killers are still at large.

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