On the morning of Santiago Nasar’s murder, the Bishop is visiting the town to deliver his blessing. He is less a character than he is a stand-in for some sort of abstract, unattainable holiness. He never sets foot in the town, choosing instead to deliver his blessing from afar, waving from the deck of his steamboat as it churns ominously upriver. The snub seems to be a snub from God himself, and in his wake town is left to moral decay.
The Bishop Quotes in Chronicle of a Death Foretold
What happened, according to her, was that the boat whistle let off a shower of compressed steam as it passed by the docks, and it soaked those who were closest to the edge. It was a fleeting illusion: the bishop began to make the sign of the cross in the air opposite the crowd on the pier, and he kept on doing it mechanically afterwards, without malice or inspiration, until the boat was lost from view and all that remained was the uproar of the roosters.
“The truth is I didn't know what to do,” he told me. “My first thought was that it wasn't any business of mine but something for the civil authorities, but then I made up my mind to say something in passing to Plácida Linero.” Yet when he crossed the square, he’d forgotten completely. “You have to understand,” he told me, “that the bishop was coming on that unfortunate day.” At the moment of the crime he felt such despair and was so disgusted with himself that the only thing he could think of was to ring the fire alarm.