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.
08 - 19.11.1997
The works of the Small Groups of the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops, began today, in the morning, with 214 Fathers present.
The Moderators of the Small Groups were elected, the names of whom we list in the following:
H. Em. Rev. Card. William Henry KEELER, Archbishop of Baltimore
The Fifth General Congregation commenced this afternoon, at 5:10pm, with the "Prayer for the Synod of Bishops Special Assembly for America," in the presence of the Holy Father, for the continuation of the debate on the Synodal theme: "Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ, the Way to Conversion, Communion, and Solidarity in America". President Delegate on duty was H. Exc. Rev. Msgr. Dario CASTRILLON HOYOS, Pro-Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy.
At the opening, the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, H. Em. Rev. Card. Jan P. SCHOTTE, C.I.C.M., read the list of the Moderators of the "Circuli Minores," elected in the First Session.
The following Fathers intervened:
The summaries of the interventions of the Fathers follow:
Among the synods of the various continents the Synod of America has characteristics that set it apart from the others. The cultural differences between the North and the South of the continent find in the Christian faith a common denominator which, in spite of the different attitudes in each of these two parts of the American hemisphere, has made a powerful contribution towards bringing the cultures of both regions together.
Faith in Jesus Christ, representing an overwhelming majority throughout the continent, and inculturated there along different paths, is a unifying force among the peoples of the two Americas. This element alone justifies the convocation of a synod assembling bishops from the north and south of the hemisphere.
Hence, personalization of the faith, according to ultra-liberal thought , or its reduction to the narrow concept of the same standards for everybody, denying those who believe in Christ and the Church any right to intervene in the community - as happens in the most antiquated Marxist systems - are very similar attitudes with the same outlook: either reduce or do away altogether with the social role of religious faith. But the message of Jesus Christ cannot be deprived of its undeniable social significance.
This Synod proclaims this right of the followers of Jesus, and it is also the duty of every Christian and the Church to be present amidst the structures of society, calling men to unite in the love that comes through solidarity.
The special feature of this synodal meeting should be that this assembly undertake to trace lines of thought and action capable of reinforcing in the American continent the Church’s evangelizing mission which will brook no postponement, and regard it as the root and sustenance of its whole pastoral task. This includes solidarity and the integral betterment of man.
Announcing Jesus Christ makes it possible to establish renewed relations of solidarity among all men and peoples. The announcement of Christ contains and advocates the betterment of mankind in all its needs, but above all it must lead to conversion and to the transformation of the lives of men and women, families and peoples, even international relations.
On its way towards Year 2000 the Church must decisively reverse the order pragmatically established by many people during the last decades: first, the conditions of man must be improved through justice, and this includes an equitable distribution of wealth, then educating him and relieving him of his sufferings. Only after this can we speak to him about Christ and His gospel. This has clearly been understood and practiced in chronological order. Thus it would appear that the Church’s evangelizing mission, the very reason for its existence, is being delayed: "Come after me and I will make you into fishers of people..."(Mk 2:17) "Go out to the whole world; proclaim the gospel to all creation" (Mk. 16:15).
But what methods or principles inspire these promotional stages which we might call pre-evangelizing? What are the dynamic ideas that are to feed the subjectivity of the human being and rouse him to achieve his own improvement? What is the quality and what are the defining lines of the human promotion we are offering our brothers and sister. In what paths are they to walk unless the gospel of Jesus Christ guides the hearts and minds of the improvers throughout the entire process, as well as those they wish to improve? This is why many are wrecked on other shores in this undertaking, leaving behind them the fount .of living water.
We arrive at situations like these when the Church’s mission is conceived as evangelizing and bettering the conditions of man. So here we seem to be combining two complementary actions which are in fact distinct and parallel, without improvement forming an integral part of evangelization. In this way evangelization does not appear to delayed in time, but it still plays no part in the task which the misery of man, fraught with every kind of injustice and calamity, imposes on us day by day.
Many Christians have felt their faith weaken and, in setting out on this dual path, have radicalized their options. Priests, as well as men and women religious, have felt their sacred vocation shaken, when they are drawn by two realities, and one of them is the urgency of helping and caring for man in his destitution, plainly and scandalously before their very eyes at every moment.
As we approach the beginning of the third millennium of the Christian era we must look to Jesus Christ. He is the good news the Church must give to the world. His incarnation was God’s option for man, and for the poor man, at all levels.
Our first concern should be to make our choice: the men and women of the continent are wandering aimlessly without finding anyone to guide them. Only Jesus Christ can save them. Only if Christ is announced will those having a life without meaning be able to encounter Him. It is true Jesus fed the multitude with loaves and fishes, but this was also the exceptional occasion where He defined his mission in His long sermon on the bread of life: " I am the
living bread which has come down from heaven" (Jn. 6:51).
Our preferencial option for the poor must be expressed in an evangelizing way, something on these lines: in announcing Jesus Christ to our brothers and sisters in America, we first turn our thoughts to the poor because they are the first to encounter the living Christ, they are converted and fight for their betterment, since they have a sacred right as the sons and daughters of God.
Our news must be Jesus Christ.
Our hearts and minds must be impregnated with Christ’s message and His love.
To sum up, this must be the Synod of unity in solidarity for the new evangelization of the American continent.
[00081-02.04]  [Original text: Castilian]
We must live the providential event of the Synod as an expression of the evangelizing vitality of the Church and as an eloquent sign of episcopal communion at a continental level. There is a deep relationship between the Catholicism of faith and the present reality of globalization. This historical and cultural integration process at a world level continues to exist starting from faith, a new "praeparatio evangelica" at the threshold of the Third Millennium. Today it is up to us as Pastors to promote a culture of communion, integration and solidarity with the freedom of the Gospel and the force of charity in a Continent which has serious inequalities where there is a rich North and a poor South.
We must support the demanding truth of the Gospel on mankind and human dignity through our episcopal communion and the testimony of our churches. Allow me to suggest that it would be opportune to think of certain post-Synodal service and dialogue actions or possible structures, as the pastoral fruit of our episcopal communion. I think that the themes of "mission", "communion" and "solidarity" deserve to be studied further in-depth. Hence, we must make possible a follow-up to keep alive in America this great event of faith, which has been called to mobilize and direct our ecclesial communion in its prophetic response to this ever changing world.
[00058-02.04]  [Original text: Castilian]
In defining our Church as ‘young’, point N. 4 of the Instrumentum Laboris concerns the multitude of young people living in our countries and the significant number of young people who are active in Catholic communities. Given the different socio-economic conditions in which these young people live, we can understand the meaning of incultured evangelization without any further distinctions. One group consists in the people already living in communion with the Church. In this case it is a matter of further extending a process which has already begun. Another group consists in those who sympathize with the Church but only from an emotional, occasional point of view. In this case it is a matter of helping them to experience life with God in communion with Jesus Christ and his way. The third group are those who have turned away from the Church because of the conditions of inhuman poverty in which they have been forced to live. They require evangelization which also promotes new opportunities in life. Finally, there is a fourth group, the sons and daughters of modern times, with everything that implies in terms of problems going beyond the world of young people to society in general.
The greatest difficulties in incultured evangelization occur in the latter group, involved in the uncertainties and illusions of our modern and post-modern society. The best point of departure seems to be the existential emptiness which they, too, perceive. The Gospel, proclaimed in a language which is comprehensible to them, will be a light in their lives and open up new ways for creating a new humanity.
In the face of the questions which these young people ask us, we should not forget the observation made by the Holy Father in Paris in August this year, according to which all young people basically thirst for God and the transcendent.
[00059-02.04]  [Original text: Portoguese]
This Synod could prove to be a great benefit for the American continent. Jesus implored the Father to foster the unity of the Church as a divine gift. This gift is everyone’s responsibility. Just as a bishop "is confirmed as a member of the episcopal body in virtue of his episcopal consecration and through the hierarchical communication with the head of the college and with the members" (Lumen gentium N. 22, 1), the identity of local churches require them to have explicit communion with the universal Church through faith, the sacraments, government and discipline.
The dioceses, while preserving their legitimate individuality, must be an expression of the universal Church, "in whose image they are set up" (Lumen gentium,. N. 23). The Church is not only the sum of all the dioceses, but the Bride of Christ, who lives in every one of them. The local church, "set up in the image of the universal Church" (Lumen gentium, N. 23) which fails to cultivate this unity, harms faith and charity, as well as its own identity as a church.
The Pope represents "the perpetual and visible principle and the basis for the unity of both the bishops and the multitudes of the faithful" (Lumen gentium, N. 3). He must defend the Pastors against any tendency towards division, and at the same time defend the faithful against any harmful negligence by a Pastor. The faithful have the right to full communion with the Church of Christ. Without this protection offered to the pastors against divisions and without the protection offered to the faithful against negligent Pastors, the Pope would go against his basic duty of confirming his brethren.
Today, through the means of social communication, any obvious disagreement can easily turn into a scandal, bringing the Pope before an illegitimate tribunal of falsified public opinion. This is in direct conflict with the will of Christ, who founded His Church on Peter.
[00060-02.04]  [Original text: Castilian]
In all of America today’s seminarians must be prepared to serve in a Church that will be increasingly diverse and interactive. Three important goals must be achieved.
First, students for the priesthood must root their preparation in that communio which is the Church. Ecclesial communion is modeled on the Trinity, centered in Christ Jesus, expressed in the Apostolic faith, anchored in the Bishop of Rome and realized in the sacraments, most especially in the Eucharist.
Secondly, seminaries on the American continent should take specific steps to form their students in a cultural diversity. The priest must be able to see Christ in every one he serves and be regarded as genuinely simpatico by people of various cultural backgrounds. This presupposes that the priest has acquired a solid philosophical grasp of the Catholic principals of inculturation. The priest should also understand and appreciate sound "popular piety", especially that love for Mary, Mother of God, so distinctive of our people.
Thirdly, seminarians who are capable of learning an appropriate second language should be encouraged to do so as a help to their ministry and as an entry into a second culture.
Finally, I propose that the Episcopal Conferences of the American continent collaborate more closely in their programs of priestly formation.
We entrust this task to the prayers of Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church.
[00061-02.03]  [Original text: English]
According to the firm opinion of scholars, three basic factors must be taken into consideration in order to understand the current cultural situation of our island: a) the four centuries of rule under the Spanish Crown; b) the hundred years of close relationship with the United States; and c) Puerto Rico’s particular geographical status (location, size and resources).
A) With regard to America in general and Puerto Rico in particular, the four centuries of colonial domination left positive and negative aspects. The former include a religious heritage of love and fear of God, characterized by expressions of devotion to Our Lady based, according to a contemporary author, "on the judgment proclaimed in the Gospel and the mercy which will be at its basis" (Arturo Davila, El Visitante, 18.10.1997, pp. 10-11).
B) Over the last hundred years, Puerto Rico has experienced an increasingly spontaneous relationship with the United States. Setting aside for the time being the purely administrative relationship between the countries, there has undoubtedly been considerable interaction since 1898.
With regard to the serious problems affecting the Puerto Rican community, we can cite problems affecting the family (divorce, the threat to life and in favor of abortion) and social cohabitation (drugs, alcohol, crime, economic corruption), problems arising spontaneously from a materialistic and hedonistic philosophy so that it is perhaps unfair to blame everything on the United States cultural model.
[00062-02.04]  [Original text: Castilian]
The Liturgy is the privileged place to meet the living Jesus Christ in tune with the Second Vatican Council. The meeting with Jesus Christ must be personal. In compliance with the economy for salvation, people should therefore meet God in the community, in the Church, and in particular when the Church meets during a Liturgical Assembly. This meeting with Jesus Christ - in the life of each person - is celebrated in the Liturgy, where it reaches its peak and profundity.
The challenge of inculturation is placed in this framework. Only a really inculturated liturgy can propitiate this living meeting with the living Christ (cfr. DSD No.35).
The greatest problem is to be found when we try to discover how this inculturation process is carried out, in particular in the Liturgy. How could one proceed in the perspective of a really inculturated liturgy in the various ethnic groups that form the scenario of our Continent? How can we act in relation to the urban culture with its post-modern traces? Could that same popular religiosity not be a great inspiring source in the inculturation process of the liturgy?
The liturgical perspective should be highlighted by giving it the right emphasis, even when speaking of conversion, communion and solidarity. Also in this case the Liturgy should appear as a peak moment and source of the whole life and action of the Church, and as a privileged place in the meeting with the living Christ.
[00063-02.04]  [Original text: Portoguese]
In the year 2000 Brazilian Catholicism celebrates five centuries of history. Up to the beginning of this century, Catholicism was the country’s only religion, but it consisted mainly in the devotion to saints by families, with occasional visits by priests to administer the sacraments.
Since the end of the last century, the reforming bishops, encouraged by the Holy See and assisted by the missionaries, increased the number of clergy, brought the people closer to the sacraments and developed catechesis. A new pastoral challenge has recently come forward: the expansion of Pentecostal churches and new religious movements. Today, approximately 80% of the population is Catholic. In the major cities, however, this percentage is only 75% or less. Together with those who declare their membership of other religions there are also more people who do not practice any religion. It is a matter of individualism and subjectivism.
This complex situation requires a differentiated, complete pastoral response which has received considerable impetus from the letter "Tertio millenio adveniente": 1) transforming practicing Catholics into evangelizers; 2) paying greater attention to the training of the clergy and the lay faithful for purposes of evangelization; 3) taking advantage of popular religious devotion, which is still very strong, centered on devotion to the saints and the Virgin Mary; 4) decentralizing pastoral action and ministries; 5) strengthening the public role of the Church, also channels of social communication.
[00064-02.04]  [Original text: Portoguese]
Meeting Jesus Christ means participating in God’s grief before human distress. The God He reveals cannot be recognized without exclusions of any kind.
Neoliberalism is based on seeking one’s own personal and individual interest, and is therefore against solidarity. Hence there is continuous increase in "that humiliating scourge of misery stemming from sinful structures whereby the rich get richer and richer and the poor get poorer and poorer" (63).
Therefore, I propose supporting the creation of a continental center to foster formation on solidarity and whose tasks would include the following:
- fostering exchange of our analyses, and social and theological research;
- disseminating research carried out by this small working group and our Churches;
- promoting the formulation of inter-American social declarations on certain topics which concern all our people.
In our communities certain terrible social realities too often seem to be foreign to the faith. The Instrumentum laboris states "the need for a more structured program of formation to assist in creating a greater consciousness of the importance of solidarity towards society" (55). These conditions for formation on solidarity are as follows:
1. Knowing what is happening to the other person.
2. Analyzing the causes of situations.
3. Acting in solidarity.
[00065-02.04]  [Original text: French]
Christ in a prayer to the Father asked that "all be one" (Jn 17:21).
Paul also exhorted the Ephesians to recognize different ministries (Ep 4:1ff; Cor 12:4-30; Rm 12:4.8).
Thus is the Church of Christ, in communion with the Pope, visible principle of the unity of the bishops and the faithful. The bishop in his local church, under the authority of the Holy Father, leads his diocese with his own powers, ordinary and immediate (LG 23 ands CD 11).
Then what is the relationship of a bishop with the Episcopal Conferences and the local churches?
The Dogmatic Constitution Lume Gentium gives the answer: "Each bishop is obliged to be concerned with the entire Universal Church" (LG 23).
Based on this principle, I would like to make three practical proposals:
First, to help to create an efficient and effective family pastoral activity in all the Episcopal Conferences, local churches and parishes, with the training in schools of qualified people, since family pastoral activity is a top priority matter;
Second, since the pastor is a basic key to evangelization, catechesis, the Eucharistic celebration, the sacrament of penitence, the promotion of charity, there should be help in the training of priest through qualified personnel, teachers and texts;
Third, an organization should be set up to join the Episcopal Conferences of North, Central and South America, with the creation of a reserve fund in which all the local churches participate, including the poorest ones, to provide help to the most needy; this principle also applies to the dioceses and parishes.
[00066-02.04]  [Original text: Portugues]
This speech concerns a reality common to the whole American continent; human mobility from the emigration and tourist point of view.
The massive emigration of Latin American people to the north and the growing number of tourist going form the north to the south represent an economic, social, political, cultural, theological and pastoral phenomenon in which the local churches in America can and must encounter the living Jesus Christ, who is there to redeem them, for conversion, communion and solidarity.
Latin American emigration has a basis in sin (domestic poverty and the foreign debt) which recalls the exile of the people o Israel in the Old Testament, which was also caused by sin.
The mobility of the poor is more dramatic than that of tourists,. Despite everything, both of these situations involve authentic human and cultural values which enrich the countries hosting them, promoting the "meeting of peoples". These processes, however, can also give rise to xenophobia and hate.
Both these aspects can be faced from a theological and pastoral viewpoint by drawing up joint plans with the local churches in the sources and target countries. This is the only way to take advantage of the positive aspects and avoid conflict between North and South.
[00067-02.04]  [Original text: Castilian]
In Brazil special emphasis is put on the devotion to Senhor Bom Jesus. This devotion focuses on the Passion and Death of Christ. There are four special moments: the scourging in the place of Pontius Pilate; the way to Calvary; the crucifixion; the death and burial of Jesus.
The processions of Sehnor dos Passos stand out during the Holy Week (Jesus on His way to Calvary) and Senhor Morto (death and burial). The most important day for our people is the one of Holy Friday. The Eve before Easter and Easter Day generally mean little to our people.
Why does this happen? The impression we have is that the people identify their life of suffering with the life and suffering of Jesus. Jesus is experienced as an ally, a companion, and a person who is suffering. There is also the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus which is linked to this devotion.
Before this reality of popular religiosity it is necessary:
1. not to lose the great evangelizing force which can be found in these popular devotions;
2. to lay greater emphasis on the mystery of the Resurrection;
3. to show the meaning of Christ God and Man for the life of humanity;
4. to show that Jesus God and Man is the absolute and definite revelation of ‘humanum’. The absolute ethical reference point is Jesus Christ!
[00068-02.04]  [Original text: Portuguese]
With good teaching and good pastors, people hear the voice of Jesus Christ and respond. This, for all of us as bishops, the nature of being a "good pastor" becomes an urgent issue. We preach best, and teach best, by our personal example. Anything which enables us to do that is not. Each one of us wants to minister to God’s people more fruitfully in the new millennium. But I believe this requires us to change, as individuals and as bishops.
We need, first of all, to become simple again. By that I mean ‘Gospel simple’. Jesus loved simplicity because it allowed Him to immerse Himself in the essential things of his father’s business. I believe we are in danger of losing that Christ-like focus as bishops.
The structures of today’s diocesan life too frequently prevent the very thing they were meant to help: a bishop’s contact with his people. It is too easy today for a bishop to abdicate his missionary zeal to others, and become a captive of his own administrative machinery. This runs exactly counter to the example of Jesus and the first apostles.
The Church throughout our hemisphere needs to recover her original spiritual fire, which fundamentalist groups now so successfully copy. We need to lead people back to the fullness of Jesus Christ, which can only be found in sacramental community and especially in the Euracharist. But how can we accomplish that? If we really want conversion, community and solidarity for the Church, we need to seek those things first within and among ourselves as brothers.
As bishops, our drift task is to share Jesus Christ with others, to "preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching" (2 Tm, 4:2). As Paul told Timothy, wee must "do the work of the evangelist". We are evangelizers first. That is our paramount purpose.
[00069-02.04  [Original text: English]
This General Congregation concluded at 5:00pm, with the prayer of the "Angelus Domini". There were 217 Fathers present.