Bishops praise film about US labour rights leader

Catholic social justice at work

Several US bishops have praised Cesar Chavez, a new movie about the labour rights leader and devout Catholic, for its portrayal of a man whom they say embodied the ideals of Catholic social justice, reports the Catholic News Agency.

'This fine film shows a man of deep faith who struggled against injustice using the spiritual weapons of nonviolence, prayer and fasting,' said Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles earlier this month.

Cesar Chavez is set for a general release today. It played at The Berlin Film Festival and won the audience award for narrative film at the South by Southwest film festival earlier this month.

The Arizona-born Chavez grew up in a family who lost their business and land during the Great Depression, moving to California to become migrant farmworkers. Chavez, a father of eight, organized agricultural workers to advocate for better labour protections and higher wages by means of protests, strikes, and boycotts.

His protests frequently featured Catholic elements, including praying the rosary as well as images of Our Lady of Guadalupe. He also incorporated fasting into his efforts to draw attention to the plight of laborers.

He successfully organised tens of thousands of workers as members of the United Farm Workers union.

Archbishop Gomez said Chavez 'was a man of prayer and man of peace. Learning about his life tells me that he had a deep devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe and that he tried to live the Beatitudes in his daily life.'

The film depicts his early years as a labour organiser, including his launch of a massive boycott of grapes picked by non-union workers. The film dramatises his conflicts with President Richard Nixon and then-California governor Ronald Reagan, as well as his 300-mile protest march from Delano to Sacramento.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said he has always considered Chavez a prophet of non-violence who preached and exemplified 'the best in Catholic social justice and American civil rights'. He called the film a 'fine movie' that 'only confirmed that high estimate'.

FULL STORY Bishops say Cesar Chavez film shows Catholic social justice (CNA)

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