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.
06 - 18.11.1997
At 9:15am today, with the singing of the "Third Hour", in the presence of the Holy Father, the Third General Congregation of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for America, was held, with the continuation of the debate on the Synodal theme. President Delegate on duty was H. Em. Card. Roger Michael MAHONY, Archbishop of Los Angeles.
The following Fathers intervened:
Herein we publish the summaries of the following speeches:
Pastoral attention to the Spanish-speaking peoples of the United States and Canada concerns the entire continent. There is concern in the United States and Canada for the promotion of priestly and religious vocations among the Spanish-speaking inhabitants and for training them suitably in order to respond to cultural, religious and social traditions which are different from those of the rest of the population. The Church in Latin America must be generous and sacrifice herself for the sister churches in the United States and Canada. It is not a matter, as some people mistakenly say, of poor churches helping rich churches. It is something very different; the Church in Latin America must be close to her poor people who emigrate to the north in search of a better life. If we do not do this, the Church will lose many of her faithful, and in a short time organized groups will turn them away from their faith in exchange for material help and other services. From this Synod for America, I call upon Latin America, despite her poverty, to help Canada and the United States. It is also a fact that on our continent the social and economic gap between North and South is often very wide. As Pastors, we must do all we can to eliminate or at least reduce this gap. First of all, there are three things we can do.
1. Urge that fairer prices be paid for the products exported by Latin America to Canada and the United States. More than handouts and loans, we just want justice.
2. The United States and Canada should sell the goods we import from them at more reasonable prices.
3. The Pastors should denounce without any compromise the scandalous arms trafficking from North to South America. We do not need arms just to repeat the story of Cain and Abel every day, to make our democracies more fragile and to leave less bread and less love for our peoples. What we need are more schools, high schools and universities. More hospitals and homes, more highways and bridges. In other words, a better life for everyone. May the Synod help us to achieve this.
[00026-02.03]  [Original text: Castilian]
1. The present and future of the Church depend on the number and quality of pastoral vocations. We must therefore nurture these vocations so that they may be an integral part of the pastoral activity of the Church.
2. Means to develop human resource training for candidates for the priesthood require urgent strengthening, because most of the weaknesses of our priests are human weaknesses. Many people turn away from the Church, go over to other religions or become indifferent because of the lack of humanity on the part of priests.
3. We must insist on self-denial, sacrifice, discipline, silence and prayer, considering the distractions and comfort which surround us. To this end, the seminaries can offer a gradual, permanent process of evangelization and catechesis of the students without just assuming that they are evangelized and converted, so that a meeting with the living Christ may occur. This is the only way to conversion, communion and solidarity.
4. We should continue the search for ways towards an incultured training of candidates for the priesthood among native peoples, since their culture has not always been respected and they are ashamed of it because we have been unable to give it its proper value and integrate it. In Mexico we have about 300 indigenous priests and over 200 seminarians from most of the 56 ethnic groups in the country. Mainstream opinion is against setting up special seminaries for them so as to avoid the formation of class divisions among of clergy.
5. Taking into account the growing dechristianization of Europe and North America, our future priests have to be trained with a missionary heart, open to the whole world< also in order to evangelize Europe, now that most European countries can no longer send us missionaries, and they are beginning to feel the need for us. They should also be trained to be close the multitudes of faithful who emigrate to the north.
6. Specific institutions are needed for training teachers in our seminaries, in all areas, especially in psychology.
[00027-02.03]  [Original text: Castilian]
Like St. Peter at the doors of the temple, we listen to the desires of men and give them what we have (Ac 3:4). Pastoral promotion requires a close link between the contents of faith and the major aspects of the Church’s mission, in a time related with the life and tasks of humanity. Under the current conditions, a new commitment is required to call the faithful to the Sunday celebration, to attend the Holy Mass and receive the Eucharist. Just one out of four or five baptized people attend Sunday Mass.
There should be a vigorous overhaul of pastoral organization, so that the celebration of the Eucharist is really the source and goal of the whole of Christian life (LG, 11). The best service which ministers of the Church can provide to the faithful, the most highly qualified, fruitful and irreplaceable is the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice. Only in the undertaking of this redeeming ministry and the distribution of the Bread and the Word can their lives have meaning.
However, attention must also be paid to the sacrament of Penitence, so that it does not become a mere formality. Liturgical groups must be trained so that the community expresses itself in accordance with its own culture. Better contents of the homilies are required, using evangelizing and catechetal vigor, concise and direct language. Resources collected in the form of offerings and collections should be managed in order to provide concrete solidarity with the poor.
Participation in the Holy Mass is important in popular devotion with a massive involvement in the feasts of patron saints and other important events. If this faith becomes deeper and more constant, it can lead to the renewal of Christian life in the communities and provide greater strength to deal with the critical situations they face.
[00028-02.04]  [Original text: Castilian]
"Ecumenism is not just some sort of ‘appendix’ which is added to the Church’s traditional activity. Rather it is an organic part of her life and work" (Ut unum sint, No. 20). It is of course obvious that ecumenical activity will differ from one place to another, but even in areas where there is an absence of significant numbers of members of other Churches and Ecclesial Communions, the local Catholic Church cannot consider herself thereby dispensed from ecumenical sensitivity and commitment.
It would be tragic for the credibility of the Church universal if there were to be a division of commitment to ecumenism between a large number of her members actively engaged in the ecumenical movement and another important group of members who do not see ecumenism as "an organic part" of their life and work. Indeed, where the Catholic Church is in fact the Church of the great majority it is surely her duty to take the lead in responding to the Lord’s prayer to the Father for his disciples "that they may be one".
The presence of many Evangelicals in Latin America is at once a threat and a challenge for the Catholic Church. Catholics and Evangelicals are today the two largest Christian bodies in the world, and are also those that are growing the fastest. Where Catholics and Evangelicals have come together to talk to each other and to seek to understand each other, both in North America and in Latin America, much of the antagonism has been overcome and new relationships formed. There is much common ground between Catholics and Evangelicals in matters of ethics and moral behavior; we both place our hope in the one mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ. We are far apart on many doctrinal questions, but where Evangelicals are open to contact and discussion, I believe that we have an obligation to show ourselves similarly open.
I would make an appeal to the Assembly to take special care in the way that the term "sects" is used. As the Instrumentum Laboris wisely points out, "the situation concerning the new religious movements and the sects is very complex" (No. 45). Christian groups are deeply offended when they are lumped together with non-Christian organizations and new religious movements. Often, we do not distinguish between sectarian attitudes and sects. There can be sectarian attitudes in the Churches and in all Christian communities - but that does not make that Church or Christian community a sect.
[00029-02.02]  [Original text: English]
1. I bless the initiative of the Holy Father John Paul II to summon us to this Synod in order to make an extensive analysis of our ecclesial reality, and to deepen our conversion through communion and solidarity.
2. In order to help us in this analysis, we can wonder why our efforts to introduce the Gospel into the dominant culture of our times in America and bring about conversion have failed.
3. We are working intensely and have extensive resources, both human and material, in the Church working in America. Nevertheless, things seem to be going badly. We haven’t hit the mark.
4. Perhaps we have ignored that most important thing, making an attractive, unambiguous presentation of the Person, the gift and the message of Jesus Christ for humanity and for history. How are we presenting Christ? How much time are we really devoting in our pastoral activity in speaking and communicating with Christ’s gift? Are we conveying, with the enthusiasm and joy of our Catholic identity, the message of Christ about life, love, the family, political and economic life?
5. With the challenges of the future and the problems of the present, the response is the same as the one given by St. Peter: "I have neither silver nor gold, but I will give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!" (Ac 3:6). The answer is to live to its fullest our faith in Jesus and to openly proclaim the supreme gift of God to humanity: grace and salvation through Jesus made man. The answer is to live our ecclesial life in Jesus more intensely, and openly proclaim the message of salvation, clearly and boldly, without disputes between churches and in the joy of our Catholic identity.
[00030-02.03]  [Original text: Castilian]
The impact exerted by the social media, in particular by telelvision, is immense. There are some very positive programs, but there are also many programs which present a non Christian view of life. Some are even immoral. It is important to increase and improve the production of good TV programs which could contribute towards the formation of a Christian culture.
It is indispensable to prevent broadcasting programs which could cause great damage due to scenes of violence, sexuality and consumerism as ideals of life.
Bad programs cannot be avoided neither by forbidding them nor by persuading those in charge of TV channels, but by stopping production of them altogether.
This ideal situation can only be reached if all entrepreneurs refuse to finance immoral programs. Then TV networks will not buy these negative programs and producers will no longer produce them.
It would be best if all Bishops in America campaigned together so that Christian entrepreneurs and others who, even if not Christian would appreciate people’s ethical views and undertook to withdraw their publicity regarding immoral programs or any other type of support of that nature.
[00031-02.03]  [Original text: Castilian]
We Bishops must give our Church of America what is most important. In this sense, there is something which is always present in the life of the Church and decisive for the future which concerns all of us: this is holiness in the Church.
Holiness is the way of meeting and being in the steps of Christ, as a model of life. And as such, it is an urgent theme in the "inter ecclesial reality", but also in the service which the Church offers to society. The example of Mother Teresa of Calcutta showed that the world can receive the impact of a life given with love and holiness.
Before a culture such as the present one with vast areas where God is absent and where God is ignored, we Pastors must be an encouraging voice full of hope in order to change this way into reality. Even if the Holy Spirit continues to offer us examples of holiness in the different organizations of the Church, however, it is necessary to have a broader movement, under the guidance of pastors, constant and globalizing, which invites everybody to be holy as an urgent issue of our times.
Therefore, we should ask ourselves what fosters and what hinders the way to holiness in order to support by our reflection sanctification of all the members of the Church and thus contribute something positive to society on which the way to holiness is based.
The call to holiness must be a very clear item of our Synod and must at the same time lead us more and more towards an overall answer in the meeting with Jesus. May our most Holy Mother, the Mother of the Church, help us and may this be one of the best and deepest ways of our Synod.
[00032-02.03]  [Original text: Castilian]
The new economic and social order which is developing in the world, and which is now the rule in the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, is contributing enormously to the impoverishment of the peoples of these countries, in open contrast to the plan and will of the Creator who "has destined the earth and all it contains for the use of all men and peoples" (GS 69).
In this situation, the Church "is obliged to make a serious effort of discernment" (S.D. 193) and "public powers" are called upon to undertake "concrete action" so that "the market economy does not turn into something absolute to which everything must be sacrificed, thus highlighting the inequality and marginalization of the vast majority" (S.D. 195).
In Latin America and the Caribbean, the social and economic models characterized by inequality and exclusive development, have excluded immense multitudes from a decent life. Over recent decades this depressing situation, the result of "structures of sin", has been sustained by an unjust, inhuman economic model called neo-liberalism which leads to problems of structural poverty so that the "poor distribution of wealth", the "precariousness of social capital", "markets without social control", and the growing, suffocating "external debt" have led to "a serious general social crisis" in our societies.
According to the Social Doctrine of the Church, "the imbalances between rich and poor countries can only be overcome by setting up a new international socio-economic order" based on solidarity and justice. The ethical and spiritual core of the real, complete development of peoples lies in solidarity and social justice (S.R.S. 38, 39; P. 20). It is therefore a matter of promoting a new social order based on ethical values and the Gospel.
"In the face of the ‘salvage’ economy, which involves serious phenomena of marginalization and unemployment, if not forms of intolerance and racism" (John Paul II to young people at the UNIV International Congress on 25.3.97), "it is necessary to take new paths which lead to a culture of solidarity."
The cry of millions upon millions of poor and marginalized people in our Latin American and Caribbean societies due to this unjust economic system with its "face of suffering" (S.D. 179), must be heard by the Church in the Americas, and must be cased with evangelical courage, and a desire to promote, for everyone’s benefit, this "new international socio-economic order" based on solidarity and justice.
[00033-02.04]  [Original text: Castilian]
In order to achieve the meeting with the living Jesus Christ, we have to experience Him in our own lives. The faith of our peoples in the Lord is connected with the credibility of His disciples and Pastors. "Let those of you who can hear listen to me." Before preaching the Gospel to the community, let us see how Jesus Christ appears to us on the path to conversion, the paradigm of communion and the model of solidarity. In order that our words, attitudes, gestures, relationships and activities may represent an epiphany of Jesus, we have to allow the tenderness of God to be reflected in the witness of merciful love, of unqualified justice, of nearness to the weak. This commitment will be decisive for the increase or decrease in the number of priests. There are a variety of requirements in America. Pastoral care is needed for 30 million Hispanics residing in the United States. While America has half the Catholics, it might be hoped that it would also provide half the world’s missionaries. Permanent training means a process of continuous conversion in faith in the ministry of the priesthood. Willingness to work for the universal mission beyond national frontiers is decisive for this training.
- The DEVTM of CELAM and the Episcopal Conferences of Canada and the United States should promote the exchange of experience and theological and pastoral encounters among the bishops of the continent.
- We should increasingly be concerned with training teacher trainers for ongoing preparation of our priests.
- That the Inter-Dicasterial Commission for the Distribution of the Clergy may cooperate closely with the episcopates.
[00034-02.03]  [Original text: Castilian]
Education as a psycho-social process is closely linked to evangelization, as well as being essential for its success. Cultural priority in Latin America lies in the coherent experience of human and Christian values.
We cannot imagine the integral promotion of man, much less the commitment to it, without undergoing an authentic commitment and attachment to the educational process. All this has the utmost priority with regard to the indigenous populations, ethnic minorities and the many brothers excluded from this process which is essential for personal development.
Lack of education harms and conditions most of our brothers in America, and the Catholic Church must regain its vocation and educational commitment, since these are the basic requirements for fulfilling her mission of integral evangelization.
The meeting with the living Jesus Christ, the way to conversion, communion and solidarity in America will foster that educational process in which everyone, guided by Jesus, our Master, will advance towards the integral development of each individual, in the context of society as a whole, in the family and above all on the personal level.
[00035-02.03]  [Original text: Castilian]
Jesus announced salvation for those hungering for justice, and Christ’s disciples must commit themselves to this struggle. In the Gospel, ‘justice’ means the total, integral fulfillment of God’s will.
True justice leads us to discover everything God wants for the good of all men, and to devote our life to the promotion of this justice.
For example, justice demands solidarity with all men, the elimination of any type of racial, social, cultural and religious discrimination. Treating everyone, whatever their economic condition, with the same respect, and recognizing that they have the same rights.
Universal solidarity is a right and benefit which everyone should enjoy. It is also a duty. Man must meet with other men, nations must encounter one another as brothers and sisters, as children of God, We should start to jointly create the progress of our countries through this mutual understanding and friendship, this sacred friendship.
The nations should look at and treat one another with greater solidarity. Above all, the strong should have greater regard for the weak.
External debt is a problem which must be approached from the viewpoint of global ethics. Its consequences affect the quality of services and of living standards among our peoples and is a burden which is too heavy for our countries; precious resources should be allocated for social programs to benefit people who have fewer resources.
The Jubilee is the right occasion to think about a significant reduction or even the suspending of the foreign debt.
There can be no true reconciliation between individuals and peoples if the conscience which repents for sins does not have a positive impact on initiatives for solidarity.
The material and spiritual hunger of the Third World, as well as the Second World, is a great challenge for Catholics at the dawn of the new millennium.
[00036-02.03]  [Original text: Castilian]
According to our Instrumentum Laboris, corruption in government structure is rampant in the political field (N. 28). In the Apostolic Letter Tertio millennium, the Holy Father recall the responsibilities of Christians with regard to the evils of our time (ibid. N. 36).
Corruption is one of the most serious evils, a widespread plague with deep roots in the different peoples, institutions and individuals, perilously spreading throughout the world and in the American continent in particular.
Corruption is a worldwide political, social and economic phenomenon. It is a universal evil in all continents and all cultures. Corruption is closely associated with poverty, injustice, immorality, the abuse of power for personal profit. It regards the administration of justice, electoral processes, the honest payment of taxes, the personal sphere, means of social communication and international trade relationships. It is related with the drug traffic, the arms trade, bribery, the sale of favors and decisions, the enjoyment of special privileges, illegal enrichment and illegal use of power. It reflects the deterioration of moral and ethical values. Corruption undermines the legitimacy of public institutions, and is harmful to society, morality and justice, working against the integral development of peoples. Society is profoundly worried by corruption and is searching for different ways to combat and eliminate it.
Considered from the viewpoint of Christian morals, corruption violates God’s commandment "Thou shalt not steal." It violates the good name and the rights of individuals and harms public resources - which should benefit everyone - and blocks the integral development of peoples. The Church in America is called upon to denounce corruption and promote integrity by word and by example, to proclaim the value of the beatitudes, to recall the teachings of Christ, conversion, justice, solidarity, honesty and integrity.
[00037-02.02]  [Original text: Castilian]
The process of globalization in international economy, typical of the modern world, is a challenge for the for the efforts in evangelization made by the Church. There are a variety of effects on the individual conscience, interpersonal relationships, culture and organization and are likely to be even more significant in the near future. This process is therefore both an opportunity and a risk.
It is an opportunity because, if properly oriented by Christian values, it can lead to greater effectiveness in the economic field and a chance to better alleviate poverty and hunger. It is also a risk, however, because unless it is based on the respect for the dignity of man, and if this process is not perceived as a means to continue to create this kingdom of love and justice, as we are called upon to do as children of God, the gap in the standards of living between different regions, countries and peoples could widen further.
Taking this into account, I would respectfully like to propose the formulation and the promulgation of an Encyclical on Ethics and Economic Globalization. The words of the Pope would be decisive to give a positive direction to this process for the well-being of all men and women, children of the same Father and brethren in Christ.
[00038-02.04]  [Original text: Castilian]
The American continent has taken shape under the dynamic influence of waves of migration and we have every reason to suppose that this trend will continue in the future. The wave of south-north migration will certainly tend to continue in spite of the restrictive measures recently adopted. This migrationary movement presents a challenging social phenomenon, as it has now become an increasingly enormous tide of humanity impossible to hold back. Some characteristics: a remarkable growth in internal migration due to social and economic problems and the frequent deportations of people without papers as the result of the harsh and inhuman laws recently introduced.
Certain causes of this challenge: the unjust distribution of wealth, corruption, violence, traffic in narcotics, social situation of the native peoples, unemployment, the lure of the industrialized countries and the mirage of big cities which attracts the peasants.
Lines of action: proper preparation of social service workers, promotion of pastoral coordination of the migrations in the churches that receive them or send them forth, efforts to defend the human rights of the migrants and fight for more just migration laws.
[00039-02.02]  [Original text: Castilian]
Given the trend to create big cities in America, there is a need to vitalize the territorial parish, the sole evangelizing structure close to the people: for their home identification, to humanize their common life taking full account of the various stages of their lives.
This is why we would urge promotion of the decisive participation of lay people, identified as urban lay ministers.
We would also urge setting up personal parishes for large sectors of the population, and for properly defined areas in the cities. These would be run by groups of lay people living in the zone under the direction of a priest as moderator. (c.517,2).
We would urge the creation of vicariates to stimulate and coordinate urban pastoral activities, bearing in mind that the pastoral style of these new parishes will be different to that of territorial parishes.
Through these pastoral initiatives the Church would be able to provide all that is missing in the cities for a more human existence and establish the full communion to which God has called us.
[00040-02.05]  [Original text: Castilian]
The Latin American presence in the Church in the United States is truly alive and growing. For this reason it is a special grace that our Holy Father has called this Synod a special Assembly for America. In a real sense today our Church can speak of one America. Although the New World comprises many cultures, languages and nations, so much binds us together and in so many ways we affect each other’s lives.
Concerns about priestly and religious vocations, problems facing migrants and newcomers, the need to seek justice and economic stability for all our people in the face of intolerable burdens of external debt - all the answers can only be found when we become conscious of the needs and resources of each part of our hemisphere.
As we focus on the New World as a whole, perhaps this is the time for the Holy See to consider establishing a new initiative of communication and cooperation among all the Epicopal Conferences of the Western Hemisphere, north and south, one that would facilitate a more ample and structured collaboration in the pastoral, charitable and social ministry Apostolates of this New World of America.
[00041-02.03]  [Original text: English]
The theological concept of communion coincides with one of the signs of the times: globalization. From this Synod concrete signs of communion are expected, starting from the reality of ecclesial organization (the family, parish, diocese, episcopal conferences, CELAM and any new forms which arise between the North and South Americans).
The most specific aspect of every Church must be made known and expressed in categories which promote sharing. This is the way to express the faith in Jesus Christ, the way of ecclesial communion.
[00042-02.04]  [Original text: Castilian]
Paradoxically, exclusion still exists in a globalized world. In order to change the situation we must accelerate development and create a joint action based on the global vision of man and society, which the Church is able to provide. So globalization of solidarity is imperative if we are to be " mindful of the needs of the weakest" (John Paul II), the poor, who " are no burden to us because they are our brothers and sisters" (USA Bishops).
The good news of solidarity, which must certainly be strengthened, should be announced through words and actions, and that does not always happen on our Continent.
Following the splendid example of ADVENIAT, established 36 years ago by the German Church, and which has given us so much, I would propose:
1. A North American ADVENIAT, on the same lines, or else more generous in resources than the German one, created by contributions from Christians belonging to the most powerful country in the world, to support the pastoral efforts of the Churches of the South;
2. And in Latin America (where nobody is so poor they cannot contribute something), create an ADVENIAT of the 22 Episcopal Conferences of the CELAM.
3. In the next century half the Christians of the world will be living on our Continent. But not half the missionaries... The Church of Latin America cannot afford to ignore the 30 million Hispanic people living in North America who look to it for their evangelization. Solidarity should also lead us to encourage and share the work of missionaries, and at a Continental level.
[00043-02.05]  [Original text: Castilian]
The situation in so many of the countries and among so many of the peoples of America has become grievous because of the violence, that has produced only suffering, poverty and death.
Faced with this reality the Church will have to assume a special commitment in favor of building peace. This job is a fundament part of its evangelization mission. The Church has acted by proclaiming and working for peace. In various nations its work has been decisive in achieving peace; and in others, its prophetic testimony continues to enlighten the consciousness of people and point out the way to make it possible.
Moreover, if the way of the Church is man, in the words of John Paul II, everything affecting man in his life, his dignity and his legitimate rights, cannot be alien the pastoral concern of the Church itself.
The words of St. Ireneus of Lyons stemming from the earliest and authentic Christian tradition, illuminate the Church’s mission of today - "Gloria Dei Homo vivens" - the glory of god is the living man. Everything that allows man to live and live in dignity, in his status as person and Son of God, especially gives glory to the Lord.
If the fundamental problem in many American nations, especially Colombia, is the absence of peace, the Church’s commitment, if it is true to its mission, must be expressed in a sincere effort to help find the means to make it possible.
I consider that the fundamental desire of the peoples of America is to be able to live in peace. The Catholic Church, by its very nature, mission and commitment with the people of God who wander the face of this continent, cannot remain indifferent to this need felt by so many men and women among us suffering the scourge of violence. A Church which does not strive for peace, would not be the Church Christ founded.
At this point I wish to recall the words of John Paul: "Peace is either for everybody or it is for nobody". No believer can remain indifferent before the quest for a peace that is stable and lasting.
[00044-02.04]  [Original text: Castilian]
This General Congregation concluded at 12:30pm with the prayer "Angelus Domini". There were 218 Fathers present.