Church Seeks Justice for Beatified Argentine Who Was Slain More Than 40 Years Ago

The public oral hearings to establish the facts concerning the crime that took place July 25, 1976, will begin March 10.

Blessed Wenceslao Pedernera.
Blessed Wenceslao Pedernera. (photo: Argentine Catholic Action)

The Diocese of La Rioja in Argentina and the family of Blessed Wenceslao Pedernera, one of the four Martyrs of Rioja, announced that they will be plaintiffs in the case involving Pedernera’s murder in a trial for crimes against humanity perpetrated by the 1976-1983 military dictatorship in the country.

An armed forces officer is named as the intellectual author of the crime.

The public oral hearings to establish the facts concerning the crime that took place July 25, 1976, will begin March 10.

The hearings will take place in the chamber of the Federal Court of La Rioja, presided by Judge José Camilo Quiroga Uriburu, who will be joined by judges Mario Martínez and Juan Carlos Raynaga.

The diocese said in a statement that “along with the Pedernera family, [the diocese] is participating in the proceedings as a private complainant through the lawyers representing them, Dr. Mirta Sánchez and Dr. Pablo Ramiro Fresneda.”

The diocese also asked “our good God to enlighten those who will take part in this trial so that, after so many years, the truth and justice of this terrible deed can be made known.”

“May they open the way for forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace for which Blessed Wenceslaus worked for and gave his life for,” the diocese said.

Wenceslao Pedernera

Blessed Wenceslao Pedernera was born Sept. 28, 1936, in La Calera in San Luis Province. From a very young age he helped his parents with farmwork. 

He then moved to Mendoza, where he worked as a rural laborer in vineyards. There he met Marta Ramona Cornejo, whom he married. The couple had three daughters.

Prompted by his wife, Pedernera began to actively participate in the Catholic Church, joining the Rural Movement of Catholic Action Argentina in the Cuyo region. Later he participated in the pastoral work of the bishop of La Rioja, Enrique Angelelli, moving to Sañogasta in 1972. 

According to the diocese, the layman “was attacked by an Army task force who gunned him down in front of his wife and daughters. He died hours later at the Chilecito hospital. His last words were to ask his family not to hate.”

Pope Francis officially recognized the cause of his death as “martyrdom in hatred of the faith” like that of the other martyrs from La Rioja: Bishop Enrique Angelelli and priests Gabriel Longueville and Carlos de Dios Murias, murdered days apart during the last Argentine military dictatorship.

Pedernera was beatified March 27, 2019. His feast day is July 17.