The murdered Mexican Journalist María Elisabeth Macías Castro

As the Pope visits Mexico it will be interesting to see if he mentions a brave and inspiring woman – Maria Elizabeth Macias Castro who was tortured and beheaded by a drug cartel last September. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (click), she was the first journalist in the world killed for use of social media. It is known that Benedict will speak out about the growing violence and corruption of Mexico’s drug cartels, significantly one of the big cartels has called a ceasefire as an acknowledgement of his presence.  Castro (39), a committed Catholic,  blogged under the name “Laredo Girl,” was found butchered by a roadside monument to Christopher Columbus with two computer keyboards, cables, disks in a seeming macabre montage of here cyber-activity. A large placard stood propped nearby, with a scrawled note that read in part, “I’m here because of my reports…Thank you for your attention, respectfully, Laredo Girl.”  She was reported  by Zenit as one of five Catholics who were killed last year in Mexico for their faith.

According to John Allen of NCR, Maria was a  leader in the Scalabrian Lay Movement,  as well as being a reporter for the regional newspaper “Primera Hora” based in the town of Nuevo Laredo located in northern Mexico close to the U.S./Texas border. She was in favour of using social media to post helpful information for society related to organized crime.  In January last year Pope Benedict called for Catholics to embrace social media, with caution, he said: “To proclaim the Gospel through the new media means not only to insert expressly religious content into different media platforms, but also to witness consistently, in one’s own digital profile and in the way one communicates choices, preferences and judgments that are fully consistent with the Gospel, even when it is not spoken of specifically. Furthermore, it is also true in the digital world that a message cannot be proclaimed without a consistent witness on the part of the one who proclaims it. In these new circumstances and with these new forms of expression, Christians are once again called to offer a response to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is within them.”

It would seem that Maria could be seen as a powerful example of this – who was brave enough to speak out  and effective enough that she was silenced in a particularly evil way.  There are two paths to sainthood, one a life of outstanding virtue and holiness –  where miracles are required as a sign of the deceased ‘intercessory’ efficacy.  However a second path, which bypasses the need for miracles is available ,  the path of martyrdom – if it can be demonstrated that someone was killed ‘in odium fidei’ i.e. hatred of the faith. I know nothing more about Maria’s life but… could a cause be opened for her? Maybe one day we will see her as the patron saint for bloggers. In a time that seems to be marked by scandals, leaks and cover-ups – the Church needs to be on the front foot more in offering inspiring examples that we can connect with and emulate. And what better day to start the momentum than on the feast of the Anunciation!