A beloved statue of Jesus looked likely to get a promotion to general in the Guatemalan army until the church and president stepped in.
The statue, known as Jesús de la Merced, is paraded through the streets of the capital ahead of Easter in centuries-old traditions brought in by former colonial power Spain.
Orlando Aguilar, the parish priest in the neighbourhood church where the statue is kept, said in a Christmas Eve mass that on 3 January the statue would be promoted to the rank of general in the Guatemalan army.
Local media took up the story and suggested the honour was to be conferred ahead of the 300th anniversary of the blessing of the statue in 2017.
But the capital’s bishop was up-in-arms.
“Brothers and sisters, as I have said and repeated many times, nobody consulted me about ascending Jesús de la Merced to the rank of general in the army,” Archbishop Oscar Vian said.
It would not have been the statue’s first military promotion. During devastating cholera outbreaks in the 1800s, then-president Rafael Carrera gave the statue the rank of army colonel and it was marched around Guatemala in an effort to combat the epidemic.
President Alejandro Maldonado said that he had not approved the promotion to general of the statue.
“As armed forces commander general I have not sought to grant this symbolic rank to the religious symbol,” he said, stressing that he would never sign one unless Roman Catholic authorities had given their approval.
Jesus statue’s promotion to army general vetoed by Guatemalan president