Commission for information of the
16 November-12 December 1997
"Encounter with the
Living Jesus Christ,
The Bulletin of the Synod of Bishops is only a working instrument for journalistic use and the translations from the original are not official.
04 - 17.11.1997
Today at 9.15 p.m., in the presence of the Holy Father, in the Synod Hall, the works of the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops commenced. The Delegated President on duty was H. Em. Cardinal Eugênio DE ARAÚJO SALES, Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro.
After the hymn "Veni, Creator Spiritus", the following speeches were given:
The complete text of the address is published in the multi-lingual edition of this issue in the language in which the speech was made in the Synod Hall (Portuguese) with the translations in the editions for the various languages.
The complete text of the address is published in the multi-lingual edition of this issue in the language in which the speech was made in the Synod Hall (English, Spanish, Portuguese and French) with the translations in the editions for the various languages.
The complete text of the address is published in the multi-lingual edition of this issue in the language in which the speech was made in the Synod Hall (Spanish) with the translations in the editions for the various languages.
The complete text of the address is published in the multi-lingual edition of this issue in the language in which the speech was made in the Synod Hall (Spanish) with the translations in the editions for the various languages.
With love and veneration, I would like to greet the Holy Father who on his recent visit to Rio de Janeiro for the Second Meeting with Families brought to vast multitudes the light of a pure contact with the Christian Faith. I would like to greet all the members of this Synod, which is actually the first Synod of America.
We are here in order to obey Jesus Christ who "set us apart for the service of the gospel" (Rom. 1,1), and to whom we give account for this historical opportunity: "preaching the gospel gives me nothing of which to boast" (I Cor. 9,16). We shall remain in communion with the Holy Father. He has called us so that, together with him we may convey to America and to the world, which have so much thirst for God, the power of the risen Christ.
The life of the Church in America, the subject of this meeting, must be seen in the light of the Gospel and integrated with both the secular and the religious world. One must always keep in mind the interlinking among all of the countries on the American continent. The Council brought an enormous presence of the gospel to all the countries of America. We are grateful to God for these incalculable benefits. The Second General Conference, which met in Medellin (1968) made a decisive contribution to the application of the Ecumenical Council, especially in Latin America. In Puebla (1979), the Church reaffirmed its evangelical identity, acquiring new vigor and serenity. In Santo Domingo (1992) we were given directives in various fields, including missionary activity and culture. This Synod was first announced there. Together with these events, there was the history of CELAM (Episcopal Conference of Latin America), CAL (Commission for Latin America) and the efforts of each diocese. In the north of the continent, evangelization in the United States and Canada has been no less inferior.
In the meantime, negative aspects have arisen. After the collapse of Marxism, many misguided people have not always been in clear, decisive communion with the Church since being awakened from their false hopes. They went over to other forms which arose to fill in the gap. Philosophical and theological relativism, characteristic of our times, is a basic problem. Relative values are important as long as they are still relative: when they become absolute they also become diabolical (see Ratzinger in "Humanitas", Santiago de Chile N. 6, 1997, pp. 280-293). Ideas are often cunningly published, stating that each religion is a possible path and that no religion possesses the whole truth ("Civiltà Cattolica", 147/I (1996), pp. 107-120 - Editorial). According to this theory, Christ has a place in the universal religious pantheon, leading to the absolute negation of the essential aspect of Christ as the Son of God incarnate (Ratzinger, op.cit.).
Democratization is valid in human affairs, as well as in the Church. However, it can lead to negative factors when it undermines or denies the basic values of the Revelation of God in Jesus Christ.
Disobedience in the Church reveals a loss of the mystical, a weakening of faith, and false behavior, contrary to the love and example of Christ. In a worrying number of priests and religious men and women, obedience is being subordinated to personal rationalizations and the pressure of public opinion.
An important factor in the distortion of ecclesial life in America is the divorce between faith as such and its influence on personal life and economic and political structures. This is the origin of the scandal of the serious social injustice which affects a considerable part of the continent’s population. It can be found both in the rural environment as well as in the cities. This is one of the greatest challenges of this Synod. One of the difficulties in facing this problem it is the real option which faces us with regard to this dual choice: to solve it starting with God, or rising towards God from a prior concern for man.
There is often an inversion of values. In practice, how often is the highly important work of social and socio-political justice given top priority? One does not deny, however obscure it may be, the Church’s primary task - that of announcing the integral Credo, God as the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Cross and the Resurrection as the major truths which provide the measure and true meaning to the whole world. The Church as the final sacrament of salvation, Christian morals as the daily Paschal victory, worship as great participation in the life of Christ; are these values not familiar enough? In many places, hasn’t our Mother Church (Cf. Gal. 4,26) been affected by a slow, progressive paralysis of her members and communities? This induces us to reflect on the holiness of the life led by Christians, on the need for vocational and missionary work, pastoral activity within the family, among youth, in the means of social communication, on the training of leaders among the lay faithful, on fervent religious life, and on the universities which preserve Catholic identity.
What is needed in the Church is generous dialogue with all cultures, but within the context of unconditional faithfulness to Christ, the only Savior, who "is the measure of all culture" (John Paul II in Santo Domingo, N. 6). A Christian philosophy and a new, vigorous application of the principles of Fundamental Theology are necessary. The Church must rediscover its original mission as the instrument for the salvation of the world - as a missionary joined to every awareness and all cultures and peoples.
These negative aspects, these threats, do not always have an explicitly aggressive
form. Many times, they are insidious and seductive; however, they are always harmful.
This Synod calls each one of us to be a living voice of the Church which announces the ineffable mystery of God, and in Her the true destiny of man and society, justice and harmony. This does not concern only enunciating; the Gospel is an important factor in the well-being of the children of Jesus here in his earthly existence.
There are three factors that merit our special attention in order to examine, in the light of post-conciliar experience for the present of the Continent and in view of the future.
First: A measure of awareness of the global reality in which all America is situated. Also, the phenomenon of globalization, whatever our position on this may be. Many times we isolate ourselves within the confines of our dioceses, we live our problems and we forget that the isolated person never will achieve a lasting success. The world has changed, and yet there are persons who continue to live in an environment which no longer exists. In that moment in which everyone faces globalization, with its inevitable marginalizations, Christians must perceive with a new clear-sightedness the authentic global character of the redemptive force of the Church: Mystical Body of Christ, wherein there are neither exclusions nor injustices, and yes, universal peace and pardon in a fraternity that emanates from the Father of Mercy.
Second: From here, one derives the second factor, which is the force of the Catholic Church as Communion. This will contribute, in an extraordinary way, to resolve religious, social, political and economic problems of our nations. And we must never forget that one local church in conflict affects all the others. Mutual collaboration will be the way. For example: instead of inviting a priest to a diocese which lacks many priests, inviting for a determinate time a small group of trainers, or opening a seminary offering scholarships. I know of a diocese that was made up of only twelve priests. With authentic collaboration, another diocese sent one rector for a period, and offered scholarships to his major seminary. This engendered a total transformation. Today, after 15 years, that diocese has 25 priests, almost all of whom are young and have good training, and 30 seminarians in Philosophy and Theology in addition to a Minor Seminary.
In whatever work, fruit of communion, a firm and decided communion with the Pope is essential, and in the diocese, with the Bishop who is in communion with the Episcopal College and the Roman Pontiff. Only thus, will we have the strength to utilize communion on behalf of the integration of the American continent.
The third factor is to have the virtue to orient pastoral efforts for some vital themes, such as the pastoral of the family, the means of social communications, the formation of leaders and vocational promotion.
My mission at this moment is not to propose solutions, but to call attention to the actual post-Council situation and provoke interrogations on behalf of an adequate preparation of the Church in America for the Great Jubilee. It befalls the Synod, with the grace of God and the intercession of the Virgin of Guadalupe, to discern and to indicate the ways. Evidently, as pastors and not as politicians; as ministers of God and not as technicians in social structures, always conscious that the true Christian faith takes precedence, and its consequences are justice and love amidst humanity.
Our words will have neither force nor duration, if in them there is not the echo of the voice of Jesus Christ. We must encourage the good, while at the same time, inviting all priests, theologians, religious men and women, catechists and faithful not to question the Faith and its sacred trust, but to, illuminate with this Faith suffering, life and death in the modern world.
I recall now the voice of Pope Paul VI. All, even the most "beautiful witness will show one to be totally powerless, if not illumined and justified (...) by a clear and unequivocal acclamation of the Lord Jesus (...) There will be no authentic evangelization if the name, the life, the promises, the Reign, the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God, is not proclaimed." (Cf. "Evangelii Nuntiandi," N. 22.).
The mercy with those that repent of their errors, love for all humanity, will be changed into trickery and lies, if we do not assume our first duty: to serve the Gospel, to unite all mankind to honor and adore Our Lord God, and in his name, to witness the Pascal victory and the initiation of the "new creation" (Gal:6,15; II Cor. 5,17), raising up the greatest possible number of persons to the full participation in the glory of Christ, anticipated in the world by belonging to the communion with the true Church of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Only thus can we encounter justice and peace. Pope Gregory the Great, in Homily 17, which we read on the feast of St. Luke, wrote: "The harvest is great, but the workers are few (...). Also there are many who listen happily to the good doctrine; there are lacking only those who proclaim it. We receive the priestly mandate, but we do not undertake that which the commitment of such an important office demands." If he were here today, his words would be different. A menacing danger prowls around the flock just as much today as yesterday. Nevertheless, the pastors of our beloved America stand vigilant, united with the Supreme Pastor. In the unity of the Church, as fruit of the fidelity to the successor of St. Peter, rests the secret of victory. The watchful bishop, faithful to his office, courageous (valiant) in the undertaking of his duties, is the sign of the vitality of the Church of Christ on our continent: the encounter with the living Christ is the way for communion and solidarity in America.
[00009-02.07]  [Original text: Castilian]
I am pleased to make this report to all present on the preparation of this Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for America.
Before directly treating the subject of the preparatory process, I would like to recall that the Holy Father, during his inaugural discourse at the IV General Conference of the Latin American Episcopate, first made known his desire to convoke a Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for America. This initiative by the Holy Father served as a stimulus to treat the subject in the XXIV Ordinary Assembly of the Latin-American Episcopal Council (C.E.L.AM.), held in Caracas (Venezuela), 22 - 26 March 1993. On this occasion the decision was made to consult the Episcopal Conferences in Latin America in this matter. The response to this consultation, sent to the Holy See in February, 1994, indicated broad agreement on the opportuneness of having such a gathering, perhaps synodal in nature. During the consultation, the Pontifical Commission for Latin America also treated the subject at its plenary meeting, 11-15 October 1993. The consensus from this meeting and that resulting from the consultation of C.E.L.AM. could not have been greater. In fact, the advisors and members of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America unanimously expressed their positive opinion on the opportuneness of having a meeting which could be synodal in nature. Also the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United states of America (N.C.C.B) and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (C.C.C.B.) manifested their agreement on the initiative to convoke a synodal assembly for representatives of the episcopates of all America. In fact, in the executive meeting of C.E.L.AM. and the Episcopal Conferences of the United States of America and Canada, taking place in February, 1995 (the 24th Inter-American Meeting in Rio de Janeiro) definitively confirmed the Holy Father's proposal which he made in the Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente. In this document, His Holiness, focusing on the global preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, explicitly declared his intention to convoke a Special Assembly for the American continent and set forth the aims of this synodal assembly: the promotion of a new evangelization in the entire continent as an expression of episcopal communion ; the increase of solidarity among the particular Churches in the various fields of pastoral activity ; the highlighting of justice issues and international economic relations among the nations in all America, bearing in mind the great inequality among the northern, central and the southern regions of the continent.
Following this brief introduction, I intend, for clarity’s sake, to develop the process of preparation for the synodal assembly in the following order:
In a certain way, it can be said that the idea of a meeting of the bishops of all America to consider commonly shared pastoral problems was the fruit of a slow maturation process which began in the Second Vatican Council where collegiality was seen as not only an effective expression of the communion of the entire episcopate with the Successor of St. Peter but also a valuable tool in evangelization. This Ecumenical Council encouraged the bishops of the entire world to establish national and international bodies to consider pastoral situation resulting from the new challenges posed at that time in contemporary civilization. In this post-conciliar spirit, twenty-four (24) episcopal conferences were established, gathering bishops from the various nations of the American continent. Also formed during this period were the Latin American Episcopal Council (C.E.L.AM.) and the Episcopal Secretariat of Central America and Panama (S.E.D.A.C.), whose statutes were approved by the Supreme Pontiff.
Furthermore, on various occasions the Latin American bishops, convened by the Holy Father, met in general conferences, publishing pastoral documents which proved to be significant moments in the history of the Church on the continent. The First Conference, held in RRo de Janeiro (Brazil) in 1955, promoted the creation of C.E.L.AM. as a sign and instrument of the collegiality of the Latin American Episcopate. In MedellRn (Colombia), 1968, the Second Conference treated the subject of the Presence of the Church in the Contemporary Transformation of Latin America. The Third Conference met in Puebla de los ;ngeles (Mexico) in 1979, and was dedicated to the topic of Evangelization in the Present-Day and in the Future of Latin America. Finally, in 1992, the Fourth Conference took place in Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) on the topic of the New Evangelization, Human Promotion and Christian Culture. The words of the Successor of St. Peter, in an act of pastoral solicitude towards the particular Churches in Latin America, reached each of these meetings: the Apostolic Letter Ad Ecclesiam Christi of Pope Pio XII for the Conference of RRo de Janeiro; the discourse of His Holiness, Pope Paul VI on the occasion of the opening of the Conference in MedellRn, and Pope John Paul II's inaugural discourse at the Conferences in both Puebla and Santo Domingo.
Other important experiences of episcopal collegiality on the continental level have been the various bishops' meetings in which representatives participated from the episcopal conference members of C.E.L.AM., the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States of America and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. During these meetings the participants treated commonly shared problems and challenges, and, at the same time, engaged in a dialogue on subjects of a pastoral nature.
These beneficial experiences of ecclesial communion inspired the Holy Father to convoke this present meeting of the bishops of all America which takes the form of a Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. Holy Father, all of us are deeply grateful for this opportunity to meet in communion and pastoral fellowship; at this time, we desire to renew once again our devotion to the Vicar of Christ and the Successor of St. Peter.
According to accepted procedure in the preparation of a synodal assembly, the Holy Father appointed the Pre-Synodal Council of the General Secretariat, whose membership was made public on 13 June 1995. At that time, the members of this Council were: His Eminence, Cardinal Bernardin GANTIN, President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America; His Eminence, Cardinal Lucas MOREIRA NEVES, O.P., Archbishop of Sno Salvador de Bahia (Brazil); His Eminence, Cardinal Antonio QUARRACINO, Archbishop of Buenos Aires (Argentina) and President of the National Episcopal Conference; His Eminence, Cardinal Jaime Lucas ORTEGA y ALAMINO, Archbishop of San Crist\bal de La Habana (Cuba); His Eminence, Cardinal William Henry KEELER, Archbishop of Baltimore (U.S.A.) and President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops; His Eminence, Cardinal Augusto VARGAS ALZAMORA, S.J., Archbishop of Lima (Peru) and President of the National Episcopal Conference; His Eminence, Cardinal Jean-Claude TURCOTTE, Archbishop of MontrJal (Canada); His Eminence, Cardinal Juan SANDOVAL IYQGUEZ, Archbishop of Guadalajara (Mexico); His Excellency, Most Rev. Kelvin Edward FELIX, Archbishop of Castries (Santa Lucia) and President of the Antilles Episcopal Conference; His Excellency, Most Rev. Francis John SPENCE, Archbishop of Kingston (Canada) and President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops; His Excellency, Most Rev. Justin Francis RIGALI, Archbishop of Saint Louis (U.S.A.); His Excellency, Most Rev. DarRo CASTRILL[N HOYOS, Archbishop of Bucaramanga (Colombia); His Excellency, Most Rev. Ram\n Ovidio PIREZ MORALES, Archbishop of Maracaibo (Venezuela) and President of the National Episcopal Conference; His Excellency, Most Rev. Oscar AndrJs RODRQGUEZ MARADIAGA, S.D.B., Archbishop of Tegucigalpa (Honduras) and President of C.E.L.A.M.; His Excellency, Most Rev. JosJ Mario RUQZ NAVAS, Archbishop of Portoviejo (Ecuador) and President of the National Episcopal Conference; His Excellency, Most Rev. JosJ Dimas CEDEYO DELGADO, Archbishop of Panam< and President of the Episcopal Secretariat of Central America and Panama (S.E.D.A.C.); His Excellency, Most Rev. Fernando ARIZTQA RUQZ, Bishop of Copiap\ (Chile) and President of the National Episcopal Conference; His Excellency, Most Rev. Raymundo Joseph PEYA, Bishop of Brownsville (U.S.A.); His Excellency, Most Rev. Cipriano CALDER[N POLO, Vice-President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.
Some members were appointed in their capacity as presidents of episcopal conferences, that is to say, durante munere. Therefore, such bishops exercised membership on the Council for the duration of their term of office and were later replaced by their elected successors.
The original Pre-Synodal Council held its First Meeting, 17-19 October 1995, during which the Council formulated a topic--later submitted to the Holy Father's approval--and provided observations in the preparation of the outline and text of the Lineamenta.
The Second Meeting of the Pre-Synodal Council, 13-15 February 1996, studied and examined the draft text of the Lineamenta, which incorporated the diverse proposals and suggestions set forth in the preceding meeting. At this meeting two new members were added: His Eminence, Cardinal Carlos OVIEDO CAVADA, O. de M., Archbishop of Santiago de Chile and President of the National Episcopal Conference, replaced His Excellency, Most Rev. Fernando ARIZTQA RUQZ, Bishop of Copiap\ (Chile), former President of the same episcopal conference; and His Excellency, Most Rev. Anthony Michael PILLA, Bishop of Cleveland (U.S.A.) and President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States of America, replaced His Eminence, Cardinal William Henry KEELER, Archbishop of Baltimore (U.S.A.), former President of the same episcopal conference.
The Lineamenta, appearing in the four official languages of this Special Assembly (Spanish, English, Portuguese and French), were made public in the Holy See Press Office, 3 September 1996. Subsequently, various episcopal conferences and other ecclesial bodies promoted a widespread distribution of the document in their respective areas through re-publishing the text as well as through utilizing the electronic media (Internet). The Lineamenta was a result of the collaborative efforts of the members of the Pre-Synodal Council, experts from various parts of the American continent and the staff of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops.
The document itself, after a brief introduction, is divided into four parts corresponding to the various aspects of the general synod topic: Contemporary Encounter with Jesus Christ , who died and rose again (first part); Jesus Christ, the way to conversion (second part); Jesus Christ, the way to communion (third part); Jesus Christ, the way to solidarity (fourth part).
The Third Meeting of the Pre-Synodal Council, 2-4 October 1996, had a dual purpose: to examine initial reactions to the Lineamenta and to draft the criteria for participation for the synodal assembly. At this time, the Pre-Synodal Council's memebership changes with the reception of the new president of the Episcopal Conference of Venezuela. His Excellency, Most Rev. Tulio Manuel CHIRIVELLA VARELA, Archbishop of Barquisimeto, replaced His Excellency, Most Rev. Ram\n Ovidio PIREZ MORALES, Archbishop of Maracaibo, the former President of the same Episcopal Conference.
In the course of the meeting, the Council members shared the positive reactions to the Lineamenta which took place in the various Church circles at both the local and international levels, and devoted themselves to drafting a series of suggestions for submission to the Holy Father on the criteria for participation for the Special Assembly. In this regard, the request was made to grant ex officio status to the following: 1) the active American Cardinals, 2) the Metropolitan Archbishops sui iuris of the Oriental Churches 3) the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences, 4) the President of C.E.L.A.M., and 5) the Heads of the Departments of the Roman Curia.
Furthermore, a plan was devised for the election of members, determined by a ratio to the total number of members of each episcopal conference. These elections were then to receive the necessary ratification by the Holy Father. The Council Members attentively studied the proportionate formula with two aims in mind: on the one hand, to ensure that a substantial number of bishops from all America would participate at the synodal assembly and, on the other, to guarantee that all episcopal conferences, even those having a very small membership, would have a suitable number of synodal members.
In the course of this meeting, the Council members discussed the subject of ecumenism in all America with the much appreciated participation of His Eminence, Cardinal Edward I. CASSIDY, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, whose presentation on the pastoral implications of ecumenism contributed to a deeper understanding of the subject.
At the Fourth Meeting, 6-8 May 1997, the membership of the Council again changed with His Excellency, Most Rev. Estanislao Esteban KARLIC, Archbishop of Paran< (Argentina), President of the Episcopal Conference of Argentina replacing His Eminence, Cardinal Antonio QUARRACINO, Archbishop of Buenos Aires and former President of the same conference; His Excellency, Most Rev. Edgerton Roland CLARKE, Archbishop of Kingston in Jamaica, President of the Antilles Episcopal Conference replacing His Excellency, Most Rev. Kelvin Edward FELIX, Archbishop of Castries (Santa Lucia) and former President of the same conference; and His Excellency, Most Rev. Radl CORRIVEAU, P.M.E., Bishop of Choluteca (Honduras), President of the Episcopal Secretariat of Central America and Panama (S.E.D.A.C.) who replaced His Excellency, Most Rev. JosJ Dimas CEDEYO DELGADO, Archbishop of Panam< and former President of the same institution.
The principal goal of this meeting was to examine the responses to the questions in the Lineamenta with the intention of drafting the Instrumentum laboris. The Councils work was done in collaboration with experts who came from various parts of the American continent.
The Fifth and Final Meeting of the Pre-Synodal Council, 2-4 July 1997, focused attention on analyzing the final draft of the Instrumentum laboris and suggesting certain points for consideration in the formulation of the Relatio ante disceptationem, the presentation on the synodal topic made during the synodal assembly. Also participating in this meeting were the synodal members appointed by the Holy Father to exercise special roles, i.e., 3 Presidents-Delegate, 2 Special Secretaries, General Rapporteur, the Presidents and the Vice-Presidents of the Commission for the Message and the Commission for Information, that is to say:
His Eminence, Cardinal EugLnio de ARAcJO SALES, Archbishop of Sno Sebastino do Rio de Janeiro (Brazil);
His Eminence, Cardinal Roger Michael MAHONY, Archbishop of Los Angeles (United States of America);
His Excellency, Most Rev. Dario CASTRILL[N HOYOS, Archbishop emeritus of Bucaramanga (Colombia) and Pro-Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy (Vatican City).
His Eminence, Cardinal Juan SANDOVAL IYIGUEZ, Archbishop of Guadalajara (Mexico).
His Excellency, Most Rev. Francis Eugene GEORGE, O.M.I., Archbishop of Chicago (United States of America);
His Excellency, Most Rev. Estanislao Esteban KARLIC, Archbishop of Paran< (Argentina).
Commission for Information
His Excellency, Most Rev. Oscar AndrJs RODRQGUEZ MARADIAGA, S.D.B., Archbishop of Tegucigalpa (Honduras).
His Excellency, Most Rev. Raymundo Joseph PEYA, Bishop of Brownsville (United States of America);
His Excellency, Most Rev. Luciano Pedro MENDES DE ALMEIDA, S.I., Archbishop of Mariana (Brazil).
Commission for the Message
His Eminence, Card. Jean-Claude TURCOTTE, Archbishop of MontrJal (Canada).
His Excellency, Most Rev. Theodore Edgar McCARRICK, Archbishop of Newark (United States of America);
His Excellency, Most Rev. Kelvin Edward FELIX, Archbishop of Castries (Santa Lucia, Antilles).
After the Holy Father announced his intention to covoke the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for America, various stages of preparation followed, principally resulting in the two previously mentioned documents, i.e., the Lineamenta and the Instrumentum laboris.
The next stage was the definitive promulgation of the Indictio, that is, the Holy Father's official act of convoking the Special Assembly, so that the synod of bishops could effectively take place. In February, 1997, the Secretariat of State notified the General Secretary of the decision of the Holy Father to convoke this assembly from 16 November to 12 December 1997. The General Secretariat, in turn, communicated these dates to the interested parties on 24 February 1997. The dates were later published in L'Osservatore Romano, 29 May 1997, together with the the names of those appointed by the Holy Father to exercise major roles at the synod.
At the beginning of November, 1996, the Holy Father approved the criteria for participation for the Special Assembly, which were immediately sent by the General Secretariat to those concerned on 16 November. These norms included the following categories of participants:
Members ex officio:
- Active American Cardinals;
- Archbishops sui iuris of the Oriental Churches on the American continent;
- Presidents of the national episcopal conferences;
- President of C.E.L.AM.;
- General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops; and
- Heads of the Departments of the Roman Curia.
Members ex electione:
- episcopal conferences:
for the first 20 members, one for every 5 members or fraction thereof,
for the following 30 members, one for every 10 or fraction thereof,
for the following 50 members, one for every 20 or fraction thereof,
for those members numbering over 100, one for every 40 or fraction thereof.
The afore-mentioned formula was to be applied in a cumulative manner by the episcopal conferences according to the four divisions of members.
- Union of Superiors General:
six members, all to be priests belonging to clerical congregations of pontifical right.
Furthermore, since Ordo Synodi (art. 5, 4) establishes that up to 15% of the total number of Synod Fathers can be members ex nominatione pontificia, the Holy Father appointed for this Special Assembly 21 members.
Also figured in the count of participants are auditors (auditores) appointed by the Holy Father, who come from all areas of Church life and share with the bishops their concern for the good of the New People of God in America. They bring to the discussion in the small groups their experiences of Church life, as well as the graces received from the Lord for the upbuilding of the Church. Participants in this category include: three (3) diocesan priests, seven (7) priest religious, two (2) brothers, eight (8) sisters, one (1) man in the consecrated life, two (2) women in the consecrated life, eleven (11) laymen, seven (7) laywomen.
At the same time, the Holy Father appointed eighteen (18) experts to assist the Rapporteur and Special Secretaries in their responsibilities.
"Fraternal Delegates" were also invited to represent the following Churches and ecclesial communities: 1) the Greek Orthodox Church in America, 2) National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., 3) Canadian Council of Churches, 4) Latin American Council of Churches, 5) Caribbean Council of Churches.
The categories mentioned above can be numerically broken down in the following manner:
I. Members ex officio
1. Active American Cardinals: 27
2. Archbishops sui iuris of the Oriental Churches: 3
3. Presidents of the national episcopal conferences: 23
4. President of C.E.L.AM.: 1
5. General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops: 1
6. Heads of the Departments of the Roman Curia: 25
II. Members ex electione
1. National episcopal conferences: 136
2. Union of Superiors General: 6
III. Members ex nominatione pontificia
1. Cardinals: 1
2. Archbishops and bishops: 16
3. Prelates: 1
4. Diocesan priests: 1
5. Priests-religious: 2
IV. Experts: 18
V. Auditores: 41
VI. Fraternal Delegates: 5
Members Elected by the Episcopal Conferences
Members of the episcopal conferences, according to conferences, are numerically distributed as follows:
1. ANTILLES: 5
2. ARGENTINA: 9
3. BOLIVIA: 5
4. BRAZIL: 15
5. CANADA: 10
6. CHILE: 6
7. COLOMBIA: 9
8. COSTA RICA: 2
9. CUBA: 3
10. ECUADOR: 6
11. EL SALVADOR: 2
12. DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: 3
13. GUATEMALA: 4
14. HAITI: 3
15. HONDURAS: 2
16. MEXICO: 10
17. NICARAGUA: 2
18. PANAMA: 3
19. PARAGUAY: 3
20. PERU: 8
21. PUERTO RICO: 2
22. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: 15
23. URUGUAY: 3
24. VENEZUELA: 6
According to the above-mentioned numbers, the total number of participants in the Special Assembly for America is two-hundred and ninety-seven (297), which can be numerically broken down in still another manner:
Members ex officio: 70
Members ex electione: 142
Members ex nominatione pontificia: 21
Auditores and Experts
Fraternal Delegates : 5
According to synodal methodology, the good outcome of a synodal assembly depends in a great part on the active participation of the entire Church community at its various levels. It is for this reason that the General Secretariat, following the desire of the Holy Father, has continuously updated information on the progress of preparation for the synod, publishing Press Releases after each meeting of the Pre-Synodal Council as well as making public the Lineamenta (3 September 1997) and the Instrumentum laboris (11 September 1997) in L'Osservatore Romano.
So as to ensure maximum diffusion of information, the synod documents have been made available at the Vatican web site on the Internet, and permission has been given to episcopal conferences to authorize the re-publishing of these documents with the one condition that two copies of the new edition be sent to the General Secretariat. As a result, various conferences have published the above-mentioned documents and also circulated them through various web sites on the Internet.
In various episcopal conferences and especially in dioceses, special activities have been organized (study seminars, conferences, workshops, etc.), with an aim of generating responses to the questions of the Lineamenta, so that the drafting of the Instrumentum laboris might faithfully reflect local ecclesial experiences. Where people's participation in dioceses and episcopal conferences was more consistent in some rather than in others, nevertheless, it is possible to say with certainty that the entire Church in America has been "in synod", i.e., praying in communion, reflecting and meditating in light of the Word of God on the priorities of the new evangelization at the approach of the Third Millennium. A significant piece of information eloquently illustrates this interest of the local Churches in the synodal assembly; out of 24 episcopal conferences, the percentage of response to the Lineamenta is 100%. Furthermore, from the point of view of content, these responses indicate that they were carefully drafted, and, therefore, a rich contribution in the process of understanding the real situation of the Church in the American continent.
At the same time, bearing in mind that a special assembly, although primarily pertaining to Church concerns in a determined region, is an event with implications for the whole Church, the General Secretariat sent both the Lineamenta and Instrumentum laboris to all Episcopal Conferences outside of the American continent. In this way, the entire Church is adequately informed in the matter and able to unite herself in prayer for the successful outcome of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for America.
One of the most interesting aspects in this preparation process which concludes today to give way to the effective realization of the Special Assembly, is manifested in the Instrumentum laboris, that is, this document represents a truly realistic summary of the situation on the American continent. Emerging from the general treatment offered in this working document is a series of elements which do nothing but confirm the providential intuition of the Holy Father in convoking a single synod for the entire hemisphere. Despite the fact that in the beginning some were of the opinion that it was impossible to find a point of union for such diverse regions and cultural realities, it became more evident in the preparation process that, beyond the apparent differences, there are many points of interest shared in common, i.e., the same faith in Jesus Christ, the fervour of a young Church full of vitality and evangelizing vigor, and the plurality of cultural expressions, which are seen more as a source of richness than an obstacle to unity. Certainly, these common characteristics, coalescing to make up the religious identity of America, constitute a rich environment for putting into practice the solidarity of the particular Churches in the pastoral activities of the new evangelization and in the discernment--through faith--of the problems of contemporary society.
I wish to express my special gratitude to all the bishops who as members of the Pre-Synodal Council have collaborated with the General Secretariat in the various phases of preparation for this Special Assembly and who have generously offered their time, working with great competence in their service to the Church. I pray that the Lord might accept their efforts as an agreeable sacrifice for the successful outcome of this assembly.
I also extend my special thanks to the staff members of the General Secretariat, the assistants (priests and seminarians), those cooperating in the dissemination of information, the simultaneous translators, and all service personnel whose work ensures the needed technical support for this Special Assembly. I thank everyone for the generosity and willingness with which they perform the work entrusted to them.
To conclude this presentation, I wish to highlight once again the topic of the Synod: Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ: the Way to Conversion, Communion and Solidarity in America . Many men and women in this continent are yearning for an effective encounter with the risen Jesus Christ so as to give new meaning to their lives. Our task as Synod Fathers is to do all in our power to fulfil this longing which is in the depths of the human heart, so that walking together on the way to conversion, we might be able to experience the joy of communion and fraternal solidarity.
"Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you." (Jn. 21:17), was Peter's response to Jesus when asked three times if he really loved the Lord. Jesus prompted this response so that He could entrust to Peter the mission of Shepherd. Once again, we, the Successors of the Apostles, desire to confirm, together with the Successor of St. Peter, the Holy Father John Paul II, our unconditional love for the Lord and, at the same time, joyously renew the acceptance of our mission as Pastors of the New People of God.
Following the spiritual journey marked by the Vicars of Christ in this century, we invoke the maternal protection of the Holy Virgin Mary under her title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, placing at her feet the work of the synod which, with God's help, we will continue. Already on 12 October 1945 His Holiness, Pope Pius XII, proclaimed the Virgin of Gualdalupe the "Empress of America" and put "under her powerful patronage the purity and the integrity of the holy faith in the whole American continent." Sixteen years later, 1961, Pope John XXIII, called her the "Mother and Patroness of America." Finally, on 27 January 1979 the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, raised a fervent prayer to the Virgin of Guadalupe calling her "Mother of the Americas." Trusting in her efficacious intercession, we are now ready to commence this Special Assembly in the hope of being able to open new paths in the evangelizing mission of the Church in America.
To Your Holiness we give thanks and acknowledge our collegial affection.
[00007-02.05][ 00000] [Original text: plurilingual]
This Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for America is the result of the initiative of the Holy Father Pope John Paul II, who first made known his desire for a "gathering of representatives of the episcopate of the entire American continent," 12 December 1992, in Santo Domingo, during his inaugural discourse for the IV General Conference of Latin-American Bishops. The idea gained momentum and was favorably received by the bishops of the entire continent in such a way that the Holy Father was able to propose formally the realization of the Special Assembly for America in the Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente.
The principle goals which the Holy Father has assigned to this Synodal Assembly are the following:
- to foster a New Evangelization on the whole Continent as an expression of episcopal communion;
- to increase solidarity among the various Particular Churches in different fields of pastoral activity; and
- to shed light on the problems of justice and international economic relations among the nations of America, considering the enormous imbalances between the North, Central and South of the American Continent.
The historical importance of this ecclesiastical event is evident, if one takes into account that the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops gathers together for the first time the entire Church in pilgrimage for more than five hundred years on the American Continent. In response to the desire of the Universal Pastor and under his guidance, the Pastors of the New People of God in America have the opportunity to pray together, to strengthen the bonds of communion and to map out fresh initiatives for the new evangelization. What shall we do, so that this Synod will be of importance in the future, so that in some way it may help give a renewed impulse to the task of spreading the Gospel? What shall we do, so that this synod may have an impact on persons, places and communities on the Continent, both inside and outside the Church? What shall we do, so that all people might allow themselves to be captivated by the splendor of the mystery of Christ and his design of mercy and justice?
For a better development of synodal discussion, a presentation on the historical realities will be offered for the purpose of better understanding the mission of the Church in the present and the future of the American Continent. The subject of history is complex and has many conflicting points; nevertheless, it will be approached adequately and skillfully by an expert so as to provide a frame of reference and to enlighten the discussion of the synod topic. It is both advantageous and necessary for us to understand better the present so as to be able to look to the past and be able to discover how the first evangelization developed, bearing in mind the following questions: what features of the faith resulted from the first announcement of the Gospel and what characteristics of the faith were imprinted on the cultures of America? How were the ideals of freedom born, ideals which fostered independence in the countries of the Continent, and how did they develop? Moreover, what influences did certain political conceptions, such as, Marxism and Neo-liberalism have on the societies of America, etc.?
This Synodal Assembly is primarily a call for unity and solidarity among the peoples of America. These objectives can only be achieved through an encounter with the living person of Jesus Christ and through a profound conversion to Him. It is a question of unity and solidarity which has to be the expression of the mystery of communion existing in Christ, and which is fully realized in the Church, the Body of Christ. This mysterious union, existing between Christ and the Church, is the highest expression of communion in the faith. It is in virtue of this mystery that the New People of God is called to give testimony to unity and love in the world so that "they may all be one [...] so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me" (Jn 17 :21).
With regards to the concept of unity which the Church desires to propose and foster throughout the Continent, it is proper to use the expression "globalization of solidarity," expressed by the Holy Father in one of his discourses at the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. This vantage point can serve as an assistance in the dialogue among the various political and social structures of life, and likewise among different ecumenical groups, so as to bring about a healthy pluralism. In many countries of America, the Church enjoys a great moral authority, and is considered a true support for society.
The call to work for communion is based not only on geographical or social reasons, but fundamentally on a shared Christian heritage which is the common denominator of all the peoples of America. The shared areas of concern resulting from the interaction and exchanges among the many social, economic, political, cultural and religious areas of the North, Central and South of the Continent, constitute a true incentive for working towards building unity at all levels.
The unity announced and promoted by the Church is founded in Christ and finds its growth in supernatural faith and charity. Under the providential love of a common Father and of one Savior, Jesus Christ, the Church strengthens herself so as to build, with the help of the Holy Spirit, communion among people. Only from this supernatural perspective can a person overcome the racial, cultural and economic differences which are a cause of division.
From an ethnic point of view, the American Continent is a multi-colored mosaic in which many ethnic groups live together: Indigenous, Afro-Americans, Latin-American and Caribbean people, Anglo-Saxon and French, who have actively contributed to the pluri-cultural configuration of America. In recent migrations, many people have come from various European nations: Ireland, Italy, Germany, Poland, etc., thus enriching the religious and cultural patrimony of America. Recently, a noteworthy immigration of people is coming from the Asian countries. These cultures frequently share the same territory forming an ethnic-cultural mosaic; and often they meld together to give origin to new and rich cultures. The diversity among people need not be in itself a source of conflict; because beyond this diversity there is always the possibility of communion in Christ, "for he is our peace who has made us both one and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility" (Eph 2:14).
Unfortunately, tendencies towards racism and nationalism sporadically emerge, advocating the exclusion of certain social groups. In contradistinction to this, the Church is always seeking to sow the seeds of fraternity in people’s hearts and tries, by preaching the Good News, to work to promote human rights and respect for the dignity of men and women by taking in consideration that, despite these overall differences, a common element exists: faith in Jesus Christ, preached in the New World for more than five hundred years, which has made of this land a Continent fundamentally Christian and for the most part Catholic. In this context, it is proper to ask whether the Church in America is really a sign and instrument of unity between persons and God and among people themselves, and whether she is a source of unity for the entire American Continent. In fact, we have to ask ourselves as Pastors of the People of God if we are conscious of the need to undertake initiatives for the communion of our people, directing the faithful in this way to commit themselves increasingly to the great task of promoting the bond of unity among the nations. Above all, we need to ask ourselves as bishops if we are doing everything which Our Lord has asked of us to live in communion among ourselves, so that the best way to accomplish our mission of bringing unity to the members of the Body of Christ is by accompanying our preaching with concrete gestures of communion among ourselves as Pastors.
At the approach of the Second Millennium of Christianity, the Church in America wishes to be united with the Universal Church in celebrating with faith and gratitude the Jubilee of the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the central and decisive event in the history of salvation. This Synodal Assembly, which is an integral part of the preparation program for the Jubilee, constitutes an optimal occasion to reflect on the Church’s evangelizing activity at the beginning of the Third Millennium, and to propose new guidelines for pastoral action. At this point in history, in which one can contemporaneously perceive the dawn of modernity and the genesis of a new civilization, the Church has to take advantage of this opportunity as a time of grace for a new evangelization.
An optimistic outlook and a sense of hope should animate our pastoral tasks so as to acknowledge with gratitude the gifts received, for example; the Magnalia Dei in America, and the challenge of building a future on the basis of the great Christian and Catholic heritage of the Continent. The history of America coincides in great part with the history of evangelization, which experienced a rapid development in the conversions of the indigenous peoples at the very beginning of colonization, and, at the same time, witnessed the Church’s increased growth and organization in the entire continent, especially at the end of the last century. The Magnalia Dei is manifested in a special manner in the witness of many saints and blesseds who flourished in America: missionaries, martyrs, confessors, virgins, all magnificent fruits of the faith and contemporary examples for the person of today in following the Lord Jesus Christ. These holy people are part of the history of the American continent and are always present in the consciousness and the hearts of our people.
The topic established by the Holy Father is well-known: " Encounter with the living Christ, the way to conversion, communion and solidarity in America ." This topic intends to relate all problems of the continent to evangelization and primarily to propose authentic solutions drawn from faith in Jesus Christ, the only Savior.
In concert with the life of the entire Church, the figure of Jesus Christ , "the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Heb. 13:8), should be at the center of synodal discussion. The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council developed on this basis. Thus began the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, who exhorted us not to be afraid and to "open the doors to the Redeemer." This was the fundamental vision of the IV General Conference of the Latin-American Bishops in Santo Domingo and is also the basic approach of the continental Synods, which have been celebrated or are being celebrated at the close of the Second Millennium. Following the indication of Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Redemptor hominis, we should again turn our gaze "to Christ, Redeemer of man; toward Christ, Redeemer of the world,…because only in him, the Son of God, does salvation exist".
In regard to the person of Jesus Christ as the center of the announcement of the Gospel, many voices are rightly insisting on the need to present the Christological mystery in its entirety so as duly to respond to the confusion in which some members of the People of God sometimes fall, i.e., to reducing the life of Christ to one or another aspect of his life, or his person or his salvific work. The new evangelization implies, for the most part, a renewed announcement of the Catholic doctrine of Jesus Christ to the men and women of America. It is evident that the newness of the new evangelization does not consist in changing the contents of the message, but rather in renewing the attitudes of the those who evangelize.
To respond faithfully to its mission, this Synodal Assembly should constantly bear in mind the example, the work and the teachings of Jesus Christ: true God and true man, suffering and glorious, dead and risen, priest, prophet and king, merciful savior and universal judge, seated at the right hand of the Father and always present in his Church, founder of the kingdom of heaven, which is eternal but which is built here and now in time.
Encounter , the first word of the synod topic, contains all the dynamism of the faith, the divine initiative, the free response of the person, God’s desire to communicate himself to every human being and the duty of every person to draw close to God and respond to his call. It deals with the Christian vocation, the true encounter in which God comes to the person and each one turns to the Creator and Redeemer through faith in Jesus Christ. This encounter is truly realized when one receives the One and Triune God, who comes to dwell within the person with his love and grace: "If a man loves me, he will keep my word [...] and we will come to him and make our home with him" (Jn 14:23).
It is important to highlight God’s initiative, his goodness, his mercy, his gift and his gratuitous nature; at the same time, however, it is opportune to emphasize the necessity of a free personal response in the context of the mystery of divine grace and human freedom. In the face of the exaggerated exaltation of freedom and the supposed independence of the person in constructing one’s proper destiny before certain genetic, psychological and sociological pre-determinants --so much in fashion today--, the Church must proclaim the gift of human freedom and the need to exercise it in a responsible way in all fields, principally in that of salvation, where people ought freely to respond to God through the love revealed in Jesus Christ.
This encounter is with the Living Jesus Christ, who died and rose again, who is seated at the right hand of the Father from the day of his ascension and who is with us until the end of time (cf. Mt 28:20) as Lord of history and eternity. So that this encounter with the Living Jesus Christ may be real and authentic, one must look for him where he can truly be found. Pope Paul VI enumerates distinct ways by which Christ is present through his Church: he is present in his Church at prayer, in his Church performing works of mercy, in his Church who preaches, and in his Church who, through her shepherds, guides and governs the People of God. He is in the hearts of the faithful in faith and love through the action of the Holy Spirit. In a more sublime and special way, he is present in the Eucharist, with a presence which is called real--the Pope adds--not by exclusion but by antonomasia.
When we speak of Jesus Christ as the Way , his words comes to mind: "I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me" (Jn 14:6). Conversion, communion, and solidarity refer to Christ as their beginning and goal because He is the Way to the Father in the Spirit. Conversion, communion, and solidarity are, at the same time, the fruit of the encounter with Jesus Christ and those life experiences which draw one yet closer to Him.
Conversion is the first and indispensable step in order to receive salvation and to draw near to Christ: "the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel" (Mk 1:15). Our treatment of the topic of conversion offers us, as Shepherds of the People of God, the opportunity to reflect upon the need for reconciliation which the Church in America, in so far as she is a human institution, ought to confront in her pastoral structures, in her members, and in all the contingent realities which limit the growth of the kingdom of God because one cannot enter the kingdom announced by Jesus Christ "except through metanoia or the inner total transformation and renewal of man, in his whole way of feeling, judging and deciding". The Church, in as much as she is a divine institution, is animated by the Holy Spirit and therefore is perfect. But in as much as the human community is composed of sinners, she feels constantly called by Jesus Christ to conversion. It falls to us, as Shepherds of the Church to set an example, making a sincere examination of conscience as the first step in conversion in view of the preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.
To approach the topic of Communion , it will be necessary to meditate on the mystery of the Church as a communion of people with God and people among themselves. As the Church is One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, the Body of Christ and, the People of God brought together in virtue of the unity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, it is always possible to promote forms of communion in faith and charity as the basis of a future collaboration in solidarity among the particular Churches of the Continent. This is precisely one of the objectives of this synodal assembly.
When the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council refers to creating unity, it assigns to the bishops a mission of vital importance: "it is through the faithful preaching of the Gospel by the Apostles and their successors --the bishops with Peter's successor at their head-- through their administering the sacraments, and through their governing in love, that Jesus Christ wishes his people to increase, under the action of the Holy Spirit; and he perfects its fellowship in unity: in the confession of one faith, in the common celebration of divine worship and in the fraternal harmony of the family of God." This synod offers us, the bishops of the whole Continent, a valuable opportunity to promote inter-ecclesial communion and to bear witness to unity in confronting the tensions which affect the entire human race and which manifest themselves in conflicts between North and South, between the rich and the poor, and between developed nations and those in the process of development.
The Christian concept of Solidarity , as practiced in the commandment of love, has its origin in faith in a God who is always in solidarity with humanity, who creates out of love, who does not abandon humanity which is fallen in sin but who always offers salvation (cf. Gen 3:15). This God, who chooses a people, forms that people and establishes a covenant of love and faithfulness with him. At the same time, this covenant of solidarity implies a religious and ethical commitment which equally regulates the sanctity of worship and the respect for life, the spiritual life and the concern for the poor, the duty towards God and one's neighbor (the practice of justice, assistance to orphans, widows, strangers and those marginalized by society). With the incarnation of God's Son, divine solidarity becomes manifested in a most excellent manner. The teaching of Christ reaffirms not only the imperative and inseparability of love for God and one’s neighbor (cf. Mt 22:37-39) but also the decisive importance of such a commandment in the final judgment.
The Church has again and again reiterated the preferential love for the poor. Pope John XXIII said that since the Church is for everyone, she especially desires to be the Church of the poor. The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council says that the Church recognizes in the poor, as in a moral mirror, the image of her poor and humble divine founder. Paul VI, in a speech to the farmers of Colombia, calls the poor the "sacrament of Christ," and the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi reaffirms the link between the Gospel of Christ and the liberation from misery. The Holy Father John Paul II in his inaugural address to the III General Conference of the Latin-American Bishops advocates a social commitment on behalf of justice and a just distribution of goods. Furthermore, it is well-known that the Latin-American Bishops in the General Conferences of Puebla and Santo Domingo have declared themselves in favor of the preferential love for the poor.
Conversion, communion, and solidarity are three paths, beginning in Christ and leading to him, which among themselves are intertwined, determined and directed towards the great topic of this Synod: the encounter with the Living Jesus Christ. These three basic states of the Christian are born of the personal encounter with Christ (cf. Mk 1:15) which invites a person to a change of heart and manner of life (metanoia). This is the first step in order to enter into communion (koinonia) with him and his disciples (cf. Acts 2:42). The communion of the believers is directed, in turn, towards walking in the footsteps of the Servant of Yahweh, namely, towards solidarity and service.
At the present moment, there are many situations, many fruits of divine providence and also many human and social factors which not only provide favorable opportunities for the development of the evangelizing work of the Church but also permit us to look to the future with hope.
1. The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 will be a special year of the Lord’s grace. "For Christianity, time acquires a fundamental importance," says Pope John Paul II, since the eternal designs of God are realized in time. If in the context of the history of salvation each measure of time is impregnated with the presence of God and with his salvific action, how much more will it be at the end of a millennium and at the beginning of another?
Every jubilee refers to the "year of the Lord’s grace" (Lk 4:18), to the great messianic jubilee inaugurated by the coming of Jesus Christ, the One Anointed by the Spirit so as to announce the Good News. For this reason, the year which follows will be, without a doubt, a special time of grace in which the whole People of God will long for the abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The jubilee is also a time of freedom: "(You shall) proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants; it shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his family" (Lev 25:10). What better opportunity is there than this, to rediscover and to proclaim the true concept of Christian freedom? This is a concept which must not be confused with human ideologies because it is at the heart of the Gospel. This is the "Good News" destined for every human being in as much as it is an announcement of liberation from sin and death.
2. The thirst for God is one of most outstanding characteristics of our contemporary culture. It is said that we have entered post-modernity and often allusions are made about the unsatisfactory expectations created by rationalistic humanism. Our environments are overly saturated with the sentiment and conviction that people do not have the solution to "the problem of humanity" and consequently, people are incapable of giving a response to the heart’s yearning for the transcendent.
The self-contained ideologies and systems of the past, which were thought to be capable of explaining and solving everything, have passed out of fashion and are no longer in vogue. Humanity today shows signs of a religious and moral skepticism and is beginning to search for God (cf. Acts 17, 27) in cults or esoteric philosophies, in pseudo-pantheistic religions, in the cult of nature (naturalism), in new and very diverse religious circles. Nevertheless, there still remains in the person an existential emptiness and a thirst for God which can only be satisfied by Jesus Christ, the only Savior.
3. Common Christian roots are one of the fundamental elements of the identity of the American continent. Without knowing the different histories, ethnicities, cultures and economies characterizing the various regions of America and co-existing at times in the same region, it can be said that from a religious perspective America has a Christian identity, which has its origin in the proclamation of the Gospel on the Continent, begun more than five hundred years ago. Beyond the obvious differences, there are common Christian roots, which are the fruits of the seeds of the Gospel planted by the first missionaries who announced the Good News of Salvation in Jesus Christ. These common Christian roots, through which various people recognize their traditions and distinct cultural expressions, are perceived to have a specific nuance, that is, in Latin America those roots are predominantly Catholic, while in the rest of the Continent they are predominantly Christian, yet not excluding the specifically Catholic presence.
4. Popular piety has particularly significant manifestations, especially among the peoples of Latin America and in the Latin-American peoples who live in the North. Essentially, this popular piety is distinguished by its Catholic character. In each case, it is all the more necessary to consider popular devotions in a pastoral program, especially as it is set forth in the teaching of the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi and the teaching of evangelization advocated by John Paul II from the beginning of his pontificate.
Among the many manifestations of popular piety some deserve to be cited: pilgrimages to sanctuaries --principally Marian ones, the family tradition to baptize children, the devotion to the souls in purgatory, the Masses celebrated for the deceased, the celebration of patronal feasts, processions, devotion to the saints --especially to the Virgin Mary. Popular piety expresses the faith of a humble and simple people; it is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Popular piety contains great religious and human values, such as the sense of transcendence and the pilgrimage of human existence, penance for our sins and the keeping of one’s promises and commitments, the sense of sharing the joy of the feast and the experience of living the faith in community. For everyone, popular piety, purified and duly catechized, is a privileged and decisive setting for the evangelization of families and communities.
5. The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council was a grace-filled event for the entire Church, for it provided pastoral guidelines for evangelization in the present and in the Third Millennium. We are all aware of the pastoral and spiritual fruits set forth in the conciliar documents which present the Church as mystery, communion and mission. Therefore, this ecumenical council is a necessary point of reference for evangelization in America, because it indicates a fundamental guideline of pastoral action for the present and the future. However, one must recognize that there still remains much to be put into practice from the pastoral orientations of this ecumenical council.
6. Social Communications , which have reached a notable proliferation in our days, should be considered in a positive way as an apt way for spreading the Gospel: "The Church, our Mother, knows that if these media are properly used they can be of considerable benefit to mankind. They contribute greatly to the enlargement and enrichment of men's minds and to the propagation and consolidation of the kingdom of God."
Among the "modern aeropagoi" calling for evangelization, one of the most important is specifically the means of social communication, given that they exert such a great influence on almost all individuals and are leading to the creation of a true mass culture. The scarce presence of the Church --and in some cases her complete absence-- in this field is an unavoidable pastoral challenge. In the Church, the use of the means of social communication oftentimes is not adequate because of the lack of up-to-date technology, economical resources and skilled personnel. It is also necessary to enlighten with Gospel values the ethical principles which guide the communication of information, since, in many cases, the goal seems to be economic and not the true dissemination of information nor the promotion of the human person.
7. The promotion of certain values related to the dignity of the human person contribute favorably to the spread of the Gospel America is a Continent where the people have a clear awareness of freedom and democracy, the dignity of the human person, and the inalienable rights and equality of all human beings. The immigrants came looking for, among other things, freedom and the equality of opportunity to construct a future of peace and prosperity. The equality of all the baptized, by reason of the common dignity of the children of God and the belonging to the chosen people, is one of the fundamental values of the Gospel. This is why we can say that these values concerning the dignity of the person offer a wide and fertile field to announce the Good News.
Among the negative situations impeding the encounter with the Living Jesus Christ and posing real challenges to the evangelizing mission, are the diverse features of the social, economic, ecclesial and familial structures:
1. The social setting shows signs of the spread of secularism: a manner of life without God and a tendency to build society leaving aside religion and moral precepts. The nuances which secularism takes on in America are the boundless affirmation of one’s freedom and autonomy, the exaltation of an oftentimes accentuated individualism and the enthusiasm at the conquests of sciences and technology. All this leads to the illusory belief that contemporary humanity has no need of God.
In the field of culture, atheism is in no small way predominating intellectual and cultural circles. Committed Catholic laity are few in universities and cultural areas, in professional and artistic settings, as well as in the means of social communications. In the field of education there is a frequent tendency to reduce education to mere instruction, without giving emphasis to transcendent values.
Another of these social phenomenon deserving of mention is the accelerated process of urbanization, linked to the development of an industrial society and demographic urban growth --primarily seen in the southern part of the continent-- related to the abandonment of farming. Big cities are growing in a disorderly manner with well-known negative consequences: poverty, cultural depravity, loss of family and religious traditions, anonymity, violence, etc. The situation requires a pastoral plan to adequately address the conditions of this growing urban culture.
Corruption in social and political life, evident in the countries of the North as well as those in Central and South America, is one of the major problems of contemporary society. Various forms of corruption exist in the public sphere, infecting the fabric of society at all levels. Nevertheless, the disciples of Christ are called to be the salt of the earth, giving testimony to the Gospel values through word and deed. Intimately connected to corruption is the problem of narco-trafficking which has both a continental and worldwide dimension. In America, this reality is present in the North, Central and South, primarily in the production, transport and use of drugs.
In recent times, indications of an awakening of racism and fanaticism are being seen, and in certain parts of the continent, there is a xenophobia against immigrants. The Church has much to say in this regard. There are fundamental biblical texts which set forth teachings on the right to emigrate and the treatment which should be given to foreigners.
2. The economic setting shows signs of enormous economic differences, a result in part to those situations which manifest themselves in the social life as "structures of sin", as Pope John Paul II has called them. The problem of the international debt of many countries of the Continent is serious. The path towards a solution to such a complex situation in the context of globalization of the economy, can only be achieved by following fundamental ethical principles in which each party assumes responsibility. Although the international debt is not the only cause of poverty among many peoples, one cannot ignore that it has contributed to its increase and in creating conditions of extreme indigence, constituting an urgent challenge and appeal to the consciences of all the members of the New People of God. The proposal of Pope John Paul II deserves attentive consideration, i.e., to try to find a solution to this problem of the international debt, taking advantage of the spirit of the Jubilee of the Year 2000, so as to consider a notable reduction, or a possible total cancellation of the same.
In many societies of America a significant lack in distributive justice exists; there is an increase in unemployment, low wages, and an increasingly evident disproportion between the rich and the poor. The thirst for easy money has taken root in many people. Monetary speculation is growing as well as consumerism. Money is also unjustly used for the war industry in negotiations for the making and selling of arms, encouraging the arming of people and the shedding of blood. Unfortunately, many resources which could be used for education, food and housing, are oftentimes destined for buying arms.
Economy and politics are not the tasks of the Church, but the Church does have the task to shed light on these realities with the principles of the Gospel. The papal magisterium, primarily in this century, has emphasized the social question on numerous occasions, and Pope John Paul II has manifested his concern for a major universal solidarity with respect to the dignity of the human person and the vocation of following Christ. The Pastors of the People of God, in communion with the Vicar of Christ, have been concerned to shed light on the multiple aspects of these human realities through their teachings and through a series of initatives.
3. Even in the ecclesial setting various deficiencies and problems can be observed which impede evangelization and the encounter with Jesus Christ. A loss of a sense of sin exists (with little reference in preaching and catechesis), and a distinction between good and evil is fast disappearing in the consciences of many of the faithful. Is this not one of the reasons for the decrease in the frequency of the sacrament of reconciliation ?
Many members of the People of God show signs of a certain decrease in their faith in Jesus Christ as the one Savior and in the Church as the universal sacrament of salvation. When this vision of faith is lacking, one looks at Jesus Christ as just another historical figure and at the Church as a mere human reality which can fail, which can and ought to change in her essential aspects and which ought to be subject to the judgment of the majority as any other human society.
Likewise, certain dissenting groups exist in the Church and a lack of harmony by certain theologians with the Church’s magisterium, primarily regarding certain topics on dogma, morality, the mission of the Church and that of Christians faced with socio-economic and political realities. These dissidenters, who seem to be organized, are creating a great confusion in the People of God.
The sects and other religious movements are having a negative influence on many members of the Church who have not sufficiently received a solid formation so as to reject the effects of proselytism and the religious fanaticism which characterizes the above groups. There is a general agreement in the entire continent on the serious problem which the sects and other religious movements represent. So extensive is the phenomenon, that in Central America, the Caribbean and South America one can speak of a true "invasion" and a "coordinated plan" on the part of the sects to change the present religious identity of Latin America. Similar negative effects are being produced by a current of pseudo-religious thought called New Age, present in the whole continent and which has worldwide proportions. Fundamentally having its origin in relativism, this New Age philosophy proposes the overcoming of personal problems through an ecstatic return to a kind of cosmic dance, while offering, at the same time, a totally anti-rationalistic model of religion, a modern mystique, according to which God is not a person as distinguished from the world, but rather a spiritual energy which pervades everything. In this perspective a personal encounter with God is simply inconceivable and even less comprehensible is the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God.
In relation to the problem of the sects and other religious movements, the question must be raised: Why do Catholics revert to the sects? What kind of Catholics leave the Church and what does their action say about what might be lacking in the Church? But above all, we must ask ourselves: What initiatives ought to be taken in the face of this phenomenon?
4. In the area of the family and life, there are many threats against this basic nucleus of society, which is also the sanctuary of life. A kind of "conspiracy against life and against the family" exists in the societies of America, as seen in the violation of human rights, the legalization of abortion, the campaigns against life, the programs of sterilization, the acceptance of euthanasia, the conceptions of family contrary to the natural order, the abuse and violence of minors, etc.
With respect to healthcare directed towards all the stages of human life, the Church in America feels called to face the problem of caring for the sick as an expression of evangelical charity and as service of collaboration with society, above all in extreme cases such as cancer, AIDS, drug addiction, alcoholism as well as physical and mental handicaps. The new ethical problems also set forth by the sciences of life constitute a challenge for the pastoral activity of the Church. Nevertheless, there are already many initiatives taken in this regard, although one must recognize that there remains much to be done in this field.
The theological virtue of hope implies a principally eschatological dimension, since it is grounded in faith in the divine promises and is oriented towards the final resurrection. The Church’s teaching of eschatological hope ought not to decrease interest in temporal realities. The well-being of humanity is certainly in the hands of those who know how to give to coming generations the reason to live and to hope.
Certainly there are many serious challenges and difficulties, in the midst of the Church and the world alike. However, much greater is our hope in Jesus Christ, who by his death and resurrection triumphs over the fires of evil and destroys sin and death. The power of his paschal mystery continues to be at work in the world; and the Living Jesus Christ leads his people towards the fullness of life. Our soul possesses hope in eternal salvation and this hope stimulates us to make progress in building the kingdom in this world, working in light of Gospel values to build an America united in the faith and active in solidarity.
God has manifested himself greatly to us, giving us faith and making it grow rapidly among his people during the second half of this millennium quickly coming to an end. In the task of spreading the Gospel among the nations, Providence has certainly some plan for America to offer it the opportunity to pay the debt of gratitude for the gift of faith which it has received.
The presence of the Virgin Mary in her numerous titles and sanctuaries, but primarily in the hearts of the believing people of America, is a sign of favor and a reason for hope in the task which awaits us. Through her, through whom we receive "all graces", we can come to an Encounter with the living Jesus Christ, the way to conversion, communion and solidarity in America .
[00009-02.07]  [Original text: Castilian]
America today is a privileged place where different cultures, ethnic groups and historical processes all converge, with a broad range of interests and different concepts about economics and politics: all of this is based on a Christian identity which arose from the evangelization, and the commitment and witness of many evangelizers - men and women, religious and lay people from every racial group, mestizos and mulattos - who have performed their mission in the past and in the present. Their presence has been evident and acknowledged, and they have had an impact on the Catholicism which requires daily commitment, encouraging us to think that the Church can foster well-founded hopes for the 21st century and in the forthcoming third millennium.
History and all its possible interpretations cannot be lost in the rush of day to day events. The fulfillment of the evangelization process should be appreciated and appraised (without ignoring the context of the period when the events took place, and without assessing the past with criteria which were only available subsequently). The formation of the Hispano-American mestizo culture is likewise important, together with the no less significant, different course of development in North America related to the current migratory phenomenon, leading to new and pressing challenges.
It has never been easy to carry out the evangelization process with any group, community or people. Unknown cultures and languages, didactic and pastoral methods for communication presented the first evangelizers with unexpected tasks and the need to use their imagination; together with their personal sacrifice, this led to "the new Christianity of the Americas".
No one now denies the faults and errors, but the many undoubted successes should also be acknowledged. No one can deny that "coming together in evangelization" took place in a context of conquest, with the inevitable mixture of positive and negative aspects of the "good news". It is likewise impossible to deny the negative effect of the initial violence and subsequent suppression, factors which encouraged undeniable apostolic witness of sacrifice, not only in favor of the Indians, the blacks and the mulattos, but also for mestizos and people who had been excluded from the new societies and nations.
Pedro de Gante, Ramón Pané, the twelve apostles of New Spain - Motolinía was one of them - Santo Toribio de Mongrovejo, the fight for justice by Pedro de Córdoba y de Montesinos, Bartolomé de las Casas and Vasco de Quiroga set the scene for a type of evangelization fully committed to the defense and promotion of human rights. The contribution of Francisco de Vitoria regarding the law of people and international laws prevented the "Laws of the Indies" from being mere mockery. Some people were undoubtedly silent, but this silence is not comparable with the historical testimony of those who spoke out in the name of the innocent with their thoughts, their words and their personal sacrifice. No one, in a true historical account, can deny that the policy of the Church fostered the goal of the freedom of the indigenous peoples.
As well as being landmarks of humanity and evangelization, these people are witnesses to a methodology of inculturation of the Gospel in local customs, with a fruitful dialogue with the various manifestations of previous forms of art, traditions and culture which have led to the present day valid and valuable expressions of popular devotion.
We can highlight the success of the training of indigenous catechists, related to the urgently needed training of the lay faithful, together with the management of methodology in community work which is both valid and up to date, without forgetting the layout of the didactic tools (catechisms) which provide highly important teaching options.
The creation of different diocese since 1511, starting from Santo Domingo and Concepción de la Vega, has had an impact on municipal life with an increasing presence of the Church,; the "community" has been created, giving vitality to the evangelization process and leading to the creation of non-European cultural reference points which will enable Latin America, the Caribbean and North America to dialogue on the basis of the same faith.
When speaking of Latin America, we should also keep in mind the specific evangelization process under way in Brazil, which involves problems different to those of the best known and most widespread pre-Columbian indigenous cultures.
Equal attention should be paid to evangelization in North America (Canada and the United States); although it dates from the same period as Mexico - taking place in Florida 1565, in Virginia in 1567 and in Georgia in 1570, though by the 17th century conditions were already radically different compared to the Spanish American colonies, since the Catholics had no government support and had to face Protestant competition. Because of this, the evangelization process was accompanied by heroic commitment and innumerable martyrs due to the enmity of the indigenous people and the local government, as well as the inevitable religious intolerance of those times.
The Franciscans, Dominicans, Mercedarians, the Order of St. Jerome, the Augustinians, the Jesuits, the Friars Minor, the Capuchins and the secular clergy are increasingly involved in evangelization. Names like Martín de Valencia, Domingo de Betanzos, Tomás Ortiz, Francisco de la Cruz, Agustín de la Coruña, Juan de San Ramón, Nicolás de Agreda; Father Martínez in Florida and later Father Segura and five other Jesuits honored Florida with their martyrdom. Then there were Father Rogel in the Caribbean, Fathers Avellaneda and Tapia in Mexico. Julián Garrés and Juan de Zumárraga who gave the Mexican Church its actual organization. Francisco Marroquín and Gómez de Fernández de Córdoba were missionaries in Central America, as was Juan de Quevedo in Panama. Tomás Ortiz, Jerónimo Loaysa, Bartolomé de Ojeda, Tomás de Toro were missionaries in Cartagena, Colombia; other figures involved in evangelization include Domingo de las Casas, Pedro Zambrano, Francisco de Vitoria, Pedro Miranda, Luis Beltrán, Juan de los Barrios and Pedro Claver.
In Peru - New Castille - there were Marcos de Niza, Reginaldo de Pedraza, with Vicente de Valverde, Francisco de San Miguel, Alonso de la Cerda, Jerónimo Loaysa and Toribio de Mogrovejo, whom we have already mentioned, in Cuzco. Others included Marcos de Niza, Pablo de Coimbra, Mateo Tumilla, Antonio Rendón, Andrés de Salazar, Jerónimo del Portillo and Fathers Samaniego and Martínez.
In Ecuador we have Alonso de Montenegro; in Chile, Fernando de Barrionuevo; Fathers Marmolejo, Pérez y Lobo and Pedro Rendón in the early stage and then Antonio Correa and Father Valdivia. In the Plata we have Luis de Cerezuelo, Bernardo de Amento, Alonso Trueno, Diego de Porras and Gaspar de Carbajal; there were also Francisco Solano, Luis Bolaños, Juan Barrios and Fathers Barcena, Monroy y Ortega.
In Brazil there were the early Franciscan martyrs with the evangelization undertaken by Fathers Nóbrega, Núñez and Viera, the Blessed Azevedo, Father Anchieta and lay brother Diego Palacios.
All of these names are associated with evangelization, and foster our admiration and approval since it was with their commitment and witness that America was opened up to the history of salvation and to the redeeming message of Jesus Christ.
No one can claim that this luminous process of evangelization has been followed by an abandonment of the Chruch’s missionary activity. The importance of the first stage is significant for the second one in which the local churches were organized, often based on the blood of the martyrs, both in Sonora (Mexico) and in New Mexico. We can recall the missions in the Caribbean and in Central America, the educational program in the New Kingdom of Granada through the colleges,, which were also founded in Peru; the missions in Venezuela, Ecuador, Chile and the Rio de la Plata region with the so-called "Reducciones" of Paraguay strengthened by the blood of the martyrs; the evangelization process in Brazil with the zeal and witness of Father Viera; in North America, the Florida missions where missionaries suffered martyrdom not only at the hands of the indigenous people but also of Europeans under the influence of religious intolerance. We should recall the extent of the evangelization process in New France (Canada), affected by government limitations and Protestant opposition. With the opening of the Quebec college, Fathers Massé and Brébeuf paved the way; then there was the martyrdom of Father Jogues as well as the martyrs canonized by His Holiness Pius XI (Fathers Daniel, Brébeuf, Lallemant, Garnier and Chabanel). We can recall the action of the layman Maisonneuve, the task carried out by the Franciscans, Jesuits, Sulplicians, and Capuchins gave their contribution to the Catholic Church, confirming the link between America and the invitation and challenge presented by the Gospel.
The republics which arose after independence in America and the Caribbean and the circumstances accompanying these processes marked a phase in Latin American history when political struggles affected the task of evangelization. The widespread process of normalization was full of ups and downs, with the action of the Church often suffering limitations, with pressure sometimes being put on the values dearest to Christian humanism and of faith. However, this did not affect the fruits of previous evangelization with its deeply rooted teachings. This does not mean that there were few problems: we can affirm that the challenge posed by secularism, Freemasonry, liberalism, positivism and, more recently, by Marxism.
On the other hand, while Latin America was undergoing the crisis connected with independence, the churches of North America (United States and Canada) were strengthened vis à vis the Protestant governments. The positive impact of migrants (Ireland, Germany, Poland, Bohemia and France) and a sense of organization enabled these churches to achieve a role of acknowledged leadership in the field of thought, education, research, family care, the development of social seminars, university life and increasing international solidarity.
All of these circumstances related to independence led to the development of lay Christian thinkers and a greater understanding of the work of women who opt for the religious life and devote themselves to the service of their neighbor or support the task of evangelization through prayer.
The Syllabus and Vatican Council I reconfirmed the attachment to the Pope and the feeling of community within the Church. The Plenary Council of Latin America summoned by Leo XIII and held in the Pio Latinoamericano College in Rome (founded by Pius IX) made 1899 an important year for going into the 20th century; with this meeting, the episcopate took a clear, collegial decision to activate, lead and orient the evangelization process.
The formal creation of the "episcopal conferences" was definitive and represented a success for the Church, enabling Her to better face the challenges and dangers of a troubled century. The church responded firmly with the ‘social doctrine’ as published in Leo XIII’s "Rerum Novarum"; it encouraged Catholic initiative, the creation of economic structures for worker and employee benefits (clubs, associations, trade unions, savings banks etc.). Later there was the policy of Pius XI, further developed by Pius XII in "Apostolicam Actuositatem", the magisterium of Paul VI and the profound, innovative initiative of John Paul II to bring the lay faithful into communion with the Church ("Christifideles Laici"). These factors provide new dynamism to the task of evangelization. Medellín , Puebla, Santo Domingo are an echo and an expression of this centuries-long history which makes America a land where there is hope.
In this positive context - which does not exclude points deserving special attention such as the activity of cults in areas previously characterized by the Catholic faith - we can understand the historical significance of the evangelization of Medellín, linked with the Pope’s first visit to Latin America, with the debate on the topic "the changing Church in Latin America in the light of the Council". Puebla was also significant, with the meeting presided over by John Paul II, and where the topic "present and future evangelization in Latin America" summed up both yesterday’s history and tomorrow’s hopes; on this occasion, there was a commitment by all - in obedience to the Successor of Peter - to spread the Gospel message in a world full of positive and negative aspects demanding conversion, communion and solidarity, a world where the Church’s missionary and social tasks have been confirmed. The Church must take a stance in closing the gap between rich and poor, and join with the builders of a new society. Naturally, Santo Domingo is still fully valid, projected to the third millennium; this challenge requires lifelong devotion to the "new evangelization", the promotion of values and the forging of a "Christian culture" in the certitude of faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ, yesterday, today and tomorrow and throughout history.
"America is young" and this youth embraces broad and restricted possibilities, which is a logical process. They both have to adjust and be converted to action to proclaim the Gospel for the new evanglization, "new in its zeal, new in its methods and in its expression" (Pope John Paul II, speech given at CELAM ; Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 9/1983).
In particular, this "youth" must creatively facilitate attitudes which make it possible to successfully announce Jesus Christ, pastoral and educational innovation which by strengthening communion with the Church facilitates communion with mankind.
There is much reason to support the "Istrumentum laboris" when it notes the socio-cultural weight that the presence of the Lord in His suffering favors, which generates commitment from another presence such as the certitude of the risen Christ.
Sociologists, cultural operators and political analysts have stated that in most of America the meaning of hope does not exist. (They say in "America" and not just in some of its parts such as for instance in Latin America, because "despair" is evident in its wholeness, hence also for different reasons). Uncertainty and restlessness are to be found in daily life and first of all cause "indifference"; when indifference then invades all environments.
Proclaiming the mystery of Jesus Christ in His wholeness must lead to strengthening this youth of America in the the message which leads to generating a certain hope which fosters that optimism which is required by these new times.
"America is young" and so are its tasks of preaching and evangelization. Five centuries have made it possible to generate extraordinary moments of inculturation of the Gospel and evangelization of culture. However, one cannot and should never declare this process as having ended until going far beyond trying to meet and constantly generate "reasons and meeting points" which are evidence of common Christian roots. "Unity in diversity" guarantees dialogue of many cultural expressions (the Caribbean, North America and Latin America) which strengthen this religious identity in America which made it possible to trust so well in "the discovery of America" as a casual fact of history. "Building America" is a real decision of those who want to do it in the Church through this new evangelization.
Cultural pluralism is one of the most precious strengths of the inhabitants of America. The generation of this creative diversity does not cease to the extent that historians have noted this phenomenon as being linked mostly to the north of the Continent. One cannot forget that the Caribbean and Latin America have undergone the great migration flow from Europe, Africa, Asia, and from every corner of the world, not only to satisfy the needs of a "dream", but because the only way to survive was "to survive in America" - the whole of America about which we have spoken and which welcomed them, and in "this welcome" fulfilled one of the greatest tasks of evangelization which, however, has not be appraised. Cultural pluralism has been strengthened by these migrations. However, certainly if you pay more attention to the migrant it is possible to strengthen better the fidelity of the Church to her message.
However, one cannot forget that America - the whole of America - for different reasons is a constant migration Continent. Some have been attracted by consumption and moved to countries where they thought they could satisfy their ambitions; others had pressure put on them due to poverty and unemployment which made them migrate risking their lives, sacrificing their family, giving up their identity; others did that to save their life and were forced to abandon the places where they lived. There are migration movements in the same country ( from rural areas to the city; from villages to an intermediate town and from there to the capital); there are migration movements to a neighbouring country...and finally "a population comes and goes". This meant asking and continuing to ask for answers and together with urbanization these are "challenges" which must find solutions not only from social and economic standpoint but approach evangelization with "new problems" which "Instrumentum laboris" describes well. It is redeeming the action which the Church accomplishes with these migrants since on many occasions it is the only expression of real solidarity.
All these migration processes (either internal or external) permanently mobilize and animate cultural pluralism, they make creativity dynamic and they make us think that by repeating with them this condition of the first evangelizers who were able to open the way with the Gospel converted in testimony. There is no doubt that 500 years later migration raises similar challenges to those of yesterday and asks everybody in the Church to give adequate answers which mean for the migrant and whoever accepts it a meeting with the living Jesus Christ, an invitation to conversion, an expression of communion and solidarity.
The history of evangelization is not only the one which was transmitted to us by written tradition. It is also the one created by parishes, schools, colleges, universities, training centers, art schools, crafts schools, social and scientific research centers; work in hospitals, prisons, shelters, physical, social and moral rehabilitation centers and through active presence in organizations for the defense of human rights, or through an ecological nature; the one which occupies a preferential place within the framework of the protection of minors, women and orphans and which promotes centers for cooperative, mutual, microentrepreneurial and trade union development. It is the Church who takes care of alcoholics, drug addicts and people suffering from AIDS, it is the Church who stands by the poor and never stops invoking social justice and active defense of human dignity. It is the Church who defends the common good , draws attention to the loss of values, moral relativism, which tries to give a basis to the meaning of dignity of the person, that makes an effort to cultivate a sense of justice; it is the Church who does not renounce Her guiding role in solidarity; it is the Church which confronts consumerism, in fashion, and to emptiness of meaning proposes a way of conversion. It is the Church that always defends life and studies this commitment further in depth whenever the life to be defended is the one most lacking defense; it is the Church who prays and asks, who before real hate and indifference has succeeded in proposing an ideal of living together.
The history of evangelization in America, in our American continent, is full of protagonists who have not asked for their name to be made famous because all they want is to have acted in the name of Jesus Christ and for the glory of God. It is the Church who obeys the Pope, in communion with the Bishop, it is the Church of priests, men and women of consecrated life, the lay faithful who have undertaken the task of evangelization, all together to promote the proclamation of "It is the living, risen Christ, present today in his Church" (Instrumentum laboris, No.6).
The history of evangelization in America is also linked to the way the Second Vatican Council was received, to the development of episcopal conferences, communities promoting pastoral work for the family, young people etc. This history is united to the development of the work of the "pilgrim of peace" and his/her multiple and generous mystery, whose presence has granted a dynamic impulse to the evangelizing Church in the three Americas, and is associated with solid cooperation of other Churches in the world that were ready to help. A history of salvation which does not forget that human beings are the way of the Church. A history of evangelization which knew how to learn from its mistakes - mistakes which did not succeed in undermining optimism aroused by so much success.
This America which we have described, which had the privilege of evangelizing and must relive "the meeting with the living Jesus Christ", which must find the "way of conversion" is linked to the certainty that history is lived in projection and that this historical dimension is formed by challenges which must be faced.
The 20th century has been a sad century although containing important elements of progress in the success obtained through human reason, cultural revolution and scientific-technical revolution, in the industrial and political sector. It has committed the serious mistake of turning away from God and His values causing a mistaken utopia in "having faith in indefinite progress" which should lead to an unlimited wellbeing as if paradise was at hand for mankind on earth.
This false faith brought about the phenomenon of secularism which implied breaking all relationships with God, hence leaving the world entrapped in immanence. It also produced individualism of the bourgeois spirit which is linked to "having" and "consuming". It wanted to transform religion into something private and cancel all the commitments which faith should have with the individual. It turned politics, economy and science away from the real values and ethics. It desired the triumph of values of a being without any bond with God. The present world can report many triumphs as well as great failures, in particular with regard to the destiny of human beings. A world where commercialization is everything, consumerism holds forth and the culture of death arrives in full force, where nature underwent a mad man’s aggression with regard to the ideal of immediate profit. This world has created many abysses for human beings. First of all the death of God was declared throwing man into nihilism.
Thus man lost optimism and hope, as well as any form of certainty. Hence this brought about the death of reason and unlimited power was given to feeling. People were taught to despise great projects, cosmic vision and this opened up to denying the meaning of history, denying the existence of the history of salvation. Human beings were turned into an object of consumption. Moral criteria were abolished, as were commitments and testimonies.
There was an attempt to eliminate a sense of guilt, of good and evil. Morals were uprooted leaving the way to selfishness. Life had to be "here and now". Esotericism, magic and satanism were promoted. This opened the way to the "New Age" with its individualism, hedonism, nihilism, narcissism, consumerism and permissiveness.
All this together with the great crisis of disrespect for life, human rights, corruption, fear generated by the nuclear and chemical threat, the meaning of daily uncertainty, political violence, drug trafficking and drug addiction, environmental destruction, institutional disorder in particular within the family. All this forms one of the aspects of the challenges which must be accepted and included in the "new evangelization", which must permeate peoples and cultures because "it is important to evangelize people individually, but also cultures, because the objective is to succeed in transforming with the strength of the Gospel criteria of judgment, specific values, points of interest, thought, inspiring sources and models of life of mankind, which are in contrast with the word of God and the design of salvation" (Instrumentum laboris, p. 9, Pope Paul Vl, Apostolic Exhortation "Evangelii nuntiandi").
Therefore conversion does not only become urgent in society but also in the Church. Pope John Paul II invites us to do this in "Tertio millenio adveniente’ stating that "at the threshold of the new Millennium Christians must place themselves humbly before the Lord to question themselves on the responsibilites which they also have with regard to the negative aspects and evil of our times" (No. 36).
The urgency for conversion must involve everybody, because a positive result of the "new evangelization" depends on them. Promoting guidelines for holiness, witness and commitment, expressing the efficiency of charism in the bishop, recreating pastoral work ability, studying further in-depth the needs and guidelines of the Council, renewing catechesis from an educational standpoint: these will all be instruments which the other side of the coin - the presence of a good Christian - must use to overcome all these urgent challenges which show a world in crisis.
To be evangelized, this world requires conversion of the evangelizer, of institutions, especially the family, economy, where consumerism threatens religion and its values, including politics. It also requires priority within the social aspect, whose defeat is represented by injustice of poverty, exclusion and depersonalization.
This world demands the same heroism from America (or even perhaps greater heroism) as perhaps at the time of the first evangelization. This world does not only demand from the bishops, priests, men and women devoted to consecrated life, but also - and urgently - from the lay faithful, in communion with the Pope a commitment to evangelize "giving a valid testimony of unity and solidarity".
America must undertake this task, especially today, before the rising ideal of "globalization". This globalization must be the one of Christian values which must enrich the ascent of human beings and the meaning of their true filiation. Globalization in values must not cancel the different cultural identities, but put them in a fruitful dialogue.
America must go towards the history of the new evangelization with the certainty of solidarity. God is loyal, just as the Church is. It is the value of solidarity which unites everybody to God and to the Church. Solidarity deeply marks the history of the "new evangelization" - a history which is still to come, since "solid awareness" pushes towards meeting our brothers and sisters (a person, community, people, reason, continent) to help them in the task of "learning to be" alone. Solidarity, love for the poor and promotion of the culture for life are challenges which invite us to cross the threshold of the Third Millennium with the certainty of building a single history which on this continent of "young America" reconfirms its common roots, its unity in diversity and certainty to go ahead towards the living Jesus Christ", our Lord of time and eternity: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End" (Rev 22:13).
[0016B-02.06]  [Original text: Castilian]
This General Congregation concluded at 12.30 p.m. with the prayer "AngelusDomini"; 220 Synod Father were in attendance.