Cardinal Álvaro Leonel Ramazzini Imeri, Bishop of Huehuetenango (Guatemala), was born on 16 July 1947 in Guatemala City, the eldest of the four children of Ernesto Ramazzini and Delia Imeri, of Italian origin, who had emigrated from Lombardy. He attended the first three years of primary school at the Colegio de Jesús de Candelaria, the fourth year in the Escuela Pública Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla in Chimaltenango, and the fifth and sixth years in the Colegio El Rosario. He then completed his preparation in the conciliar minor seminary of Santiago, again in the archdiocese of Guatemala. He studied philosophy and theology in the Salesian Theological Institute, and concluded his formation for the priesthood in Mexico, in the diocesan seminary of Mérida, in the Yucatán.
He was ordained a priest on 27 June 1971 in the cathedral of Guatemala by Archbishop Mario Casariego, who immediately engaged him to take care of the Seminario Mayor Nacional de La Asunción. In that period, precisely between 1976 and 1980, he studied canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University, where he was awarded a doctorate.
Upon returning to Guatemala, he was first formator and then professor of theology and then, from 1983 to 1986, rector of the Seminario Mayor Nacional de La Asunción. He also taught theology and canon law at the Salesian Theological Institute, accompanying these services with pastoral care in the parishes.
On 15 December 1988, John Paul II appointed him as bishop of San Marcos and on 6 January 1989, personally conferring ordination in Saint Peter’s Basilica. ¡Ay de mí sino evangelizo! (“Woe is me if I do not evangelize!”) is his episcopal motto. In the diocese he founded the pastoral care of the land, recognizing the value of agricultural resources and the dignity of rural workers, and the House of the migrant, for the protection of unaccompanied minors in particular.
In 1990 he became secretary general of the Guatemalan Episcopal Conference (CEG), within which he has held numerous offices; he was elected president in 2006. He completed his term in 2008 and is currently responsible for the Commissions for social communications and for justice and solidarity. He has also served as head of social pastoral care, of national Caritas, of the pastoral ministry of communications, and of the pastoral care of prisoners and of “movilidad humana”, human mobility.
Again within the CEG, he has assumed a prominent role in promoting peace during the civil war that afflicted the country between 1960 to 1996: indeed, he was delegate of the Guatemalan bishops in the “Comisión multi partita” for ascertaining the communities of the civil population in resistance in the north of Quiché (1990-1994) and member of the religious sector in the national reconciliation Commission, which permitted the birth of the national dialogue (1991-1996).
From 2000 to 2006 he chaired the Servicio internacional cristiano de solidaridad con los pueblos de América latina “Óscar Romero” (Sicsal) and from 2001 to 2005 the Episcopal Secretariat of Central America (Sedac). He has made a significant contribution in the Latin American Episcopal Council (Celam): he took part in the general conferences of 1992 in Santo Domingo and in 2007 in Aparecida; and between 1991 and 1995 he was head of the section for ecumenism and interreligious dialogue.
In 2011 he received the “Pacem in terris” prize – awarded “to honour a person who is distinguished in peace and justice, not only in his own country but in the world” – and on 14 May 2012 he was transferred by Benedict XVI to the residential see of Huehuetenango, which has almost a million faithful, on the border with the Mexican state of Chiapas. Since his entry into the diocese, the following 14 July, he has furthered his service among the poor, becoming a point of reference especially for indigenous populations which suffer violence and injustice.
Within the Roman Curia, since 1990 he is a member of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, and from 1991 to 1996 he has been a member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. In 1997 he took part in the special Assembly for America in the Synod of Bishops.
Created and proclaimed Cardinal by Pope Francis in the consistory of 5 October 2019, of the Title of San Giovanni Evangelista a Spinaceto.
- Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life;
- Pontifical Commission for Latin America.