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.
09 - 20.11.1997
At 9.15 a.m. today, in the presence of the Holy Father, with the singing of the "Third Hour", the Sixth 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: His Eminence Card. Eugênio DE ARAUJO SALES, Archbishop of São Sebastião do Río de Janeiro.
The following Fathers intervened:
Herein we publish the summaries of the following speeches:
I would like to talk about the reality, the mission and the importance of consecrated life, as the "Encounter with the living Jesus Christ: the way to conversion, communion and solidarity in America". In the splendid Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata the Holy Father, following Vatican Council II, stated that a consecrated life "belongs intimately to life, holiness and the mission of the Church" (VC3). The Exhortation mentions many fields of action and challenges which also appear in the Instrumentum laboris of our Assembly. The whole history of America, ever since the first announcement of the Gospel, tells us of the activities of consecrated life both in the plantatio Ecclesiae and in its later development and cohesion. We need only consider the statistics illustrating the presence and the work of priests in America. Today it is important to intensify the energy that contributed so much to the vitality of the Church in the various regions of the American continent. Despite the difficulties which consecrated life is enduring in some areas, there can be no doubt about the solid worth and the necessity of its irreplaceable contribution. In his Apostolic Exhortation the Holy Father drew attention to its present missionary contemporariness in confronting the challenges of our time: challenges from a prosperous, self-assured world, and also from a poor world in need of solidarity. To make it possible for the great reality of consecrated life to develop all its evangelical and missionary potential to benefit our Christian communities, it seems to me that this is the right time to recall three objectives:
1) Consecrated life must always be true to itself, i.e. it should be spiritually firm and draw its identity from authentic sources: the Gospel, its founders, and by faithful to its mission. Above all consecrated life is a living memory of the form of life of the Word incarnate and its total dedication to God the Father and mankind (cf. VC 22). It is a sign of fraternity in the Church - communion, it serves the love of God which wants to fill the world through the humble and total surrender of people who follow Christ in His chastity, poverty, obedience, preaching and mission. (cf. VC 25).
2) Consecrated life must be esteemed in the local churches. It must be observed with care, welcomed, followed up, sustained by everybody’s love, starting with the Pastors who direct the Christian community. In the Synod we have more than once heard the exhortation "De re nostra agitur", to deal with our own reality, one which belongs to the vitality of our Christian communities. "The bishop is father and pastor of all the local Church (...). In his pastoral charity he must therefore welcome the charisma of the consecrated life as a sign of grace which regards not only an institution, so that it is relevant to and full of benefits for the entire Church" (VC 49). The consecrated life must be assisted for the fulfillment of its mission in compliance with the multiplicity of its charisms.
Although pastors perform the work of helping to strengthen this faithfulness, the whole Christian community must also show interest and pray to the Father so that this type of life will be consolidated with renewed energy so that the mission of these institutions, in compliance with their genuine charism, may respond increasingly better to the challenges of our time, without forgetting the lay faithful who can transmit their devotion to society, and the magnificent religious institutions founded by so many men and women.
Consecrated persons, priests and lay people, in communion with the Pope and bishops, must face the growing needs of our time, both old and new, in a climate of close cooperation and ecclesial fraternity.
Is this not perhaps the "evangelical salt", the consecrated life, which we need so much to ensure that our communities will be moved to encounter and witness Jesus Christ on the path to conversion, communion and solidarity.
[00124-02.04]  [Original text: Castilian]
While religious men and religious women represent on our continent "a primordial evangelical and apostolic force," in Puerto Rico the laity have produced the fruits of missionary service for evangelization.
We wish to signal two examples:
1. The Cheos Brothers are faithful farmers, who at the end of the Spanish-American War, preached and defended the Catholic faith on the island, in the face of the strong religious invasion of Protestant sects coming from the north. From this developed an institute of lay men and women dedicated to the preaching of the gospel.
2. The extraordinary life of the Servant of God, Charlie M. Rodriguez, "Pre-conciliar Apostle of the Liturgical Movement," highlights the participation of a layman in an environment considered exclusive to the clergy: the liturgy. His passion was to live the Pascal mystery in daily life, as the celebration of the most profound and marvelous gift of God to his humanity. For him, being one with the Church was to live life as the liturgy of the Pascal mystery.
Both the Cheos Brothers and Charlie Rodriguez help us to focus in Puerto Rico on the mission of the laity in the Church. Already, Lumen Gentium, has reminded us that the "apostolate of the laity is the participation in the same salvific mission of the Church and in this, all are destined for the same Lord by virtue of Baptism and Confirmation."
[00111-02.05]  [Original text: Castilian]
After having brought to light the relevance of the Decree of Vatican II, "Inter Mirifica," concerning the future of the new evangelization of the Church, one emphasizes that communication determines a good part, if not the essential part, of the evolution of humanity. Perhaps this is the field in which scientists have concentrated their major efforts for the globalization of the planet.
This search obliges Catholics to form specialists in order to analyze the facts, as well as for publicity, but above all, for the programming of and observation of ethics.
We have the obligation to accompany the evolution of communications media with a reasonable optimism. We cannot arrive late because others will occupy the vacant seats. One good example of this is our community radios. Only in our country, in Brazil, can it be said that there exist more than 5,000 which reach the common people and allow them to participate, without proselytizing nor commercialization.
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees us the right to communication. Pope Paul VI, in Octogesima Adveniens, makes us aware that Democracy must guarantee the right to information and expression.
We hope that our organizations, such as the Catholic universities and others, make use of modern media, such as Internet and other information resources, in the name of Christ and his Church in America.
[00070-02.05]  [Original text: Portoguese]
The importance of the media requires the Church to respond to the challenge of proclaiming the Gospel. Despite the limitations and risks of preaching the Gospel through the media, the Church must not be afraid. Without a presence in the media, we run the risk of being absent from the world, In the meantime, this world always needs the Good News.
People in our time rely heavily on television for information. In Canada, , the average watching time is 25 hours per week. Television obeys laws which must be respected. Images in particular appeal more to people than reason. It is more suited to witnessing than to explaining.
1. Television is good for broadcasting religious events such as celebrations of the Holy Father, World Youth Days, state funerals etc.;
2. Theoretical lessons to not come over very well. Witnesses such as Mother Teresa and Jean Vanier come over better.
3. The presence of people distinguished by their faith, e.g. the fight for justice, help to the poor, interesting ideas on major social issues, in current programs.
Television shapes people’s mentality, presenting values (good or bad). Would it not be useful to ask Christian communicators to cooperate together in America to prepare the basis for the promotion of Christian values, mutual help, solidarity, the family etc.?
Radio, which is increasingly accessible with the development of digital radio, is being used for training and education. One could promote Bible training by radio to respond to the spiritual needs of our contemporaries.
Internet allows for the dissemination of a mass of dubious and credible information. The Vatican site, which is frequently visited, is a proof of interest in our faith. Each diocese, and even each parish, could use this tool with a minimum of training.
The press has long played an important role in the Church, allowing for the clear illustration and development of Christian thought. Wouldn’t it be useful to concentrate more or our resources into better quality and more widely distributed publications?
[00071-02.04]  [Original text: French]
As at the time of His first disciples, this Synod asks the Lord to "teach us to pray", so that we can believe in the transforming action of community prayer: by this we confess and worship the living God.
However, can we group together one praying America? It is difficult for us to hope due to: poverty, injustice, divisions and marginalization, communication deceit and oppression.
It would be best to create forms of communication and foster exchange which could help us to grow together and keep a constant dialogue. In pray we dialogue with a person who always listens and never leaves us without an answer.
We wish to have a renewed prayer stemming from the different cultures and religions. We wish to pray together to one God who unites us.
The ecumenical and macroecumenical prayer pleases the Lord of all times and peoples.
Let us pray and build a new house with a new humanity, full of joy in the Holy Spirit.
[00072-02.04]  [Original text: Castilian]
The Working Document points out some negative aspects of political life in our countries: people lose sight of the common good, there is corruption, there are shortcomings in the administration of justice, and politics is discredited. For this reason it is necessary to provide for political formation not only for the ruling class but also for all the lay faithful.
The starting point of the political concept lies in "the multiple and varied conomic, social, legislative, administrative and cultural action destined to organically and institutionally promote the common good" (Apostolic Exhortation Christfideles laici, No.42). Therefore, it is necessary to state that all the lay faithful have "the right and duty" to participate in politics.
There are three basic considerations:
- Support civil society as a whole so that together with the State it can be a protagonist in the big decisions for the good of everybody;
- Defend the common good, that is to say, all the conditions so that people, families and associations may reach perfection;
- support formation so that political effort is implied as a service.
This is the only way to overcome temptations of corruption, falsehood, and abuse of power.
Pastoral work suggestions should include:
- Offering evangelization which leads to meeting Christ Our Savior of mankind here and now (Social Doctrine of the Church);
- Conversion which leads to great mobilization in favor of life;
- Communion, experimented in very concrete communities;
- Solidarity, which leads to educating on sharing and peace.
[00073-02.03]  [Original text: Castilian]
In this Synod, the episcopal community of the Americas must express itself to respond to the great challenges put to the Church by the global economy and culture which widen the gap between rich and poor, making even worse the marginalization of the so-called "unviables". The Church also has a significant role in society as a whole - an aspect which has not been sufficiently developed - in order to fill the gaps left by the two major components of the system, capital and government.
New techniques of social communication have played an important role in assisting the forces which control the system. The Church must search for effective international outlets where major decisions are taken and in the field of educational pastoral work in order to use these media for evangelization.
The new economic and social order is producing and encouraging more opening of the frontiers, but the countries react defensively against immigration. The communion of bishops must intervene and search for Christian solutions to help illegal immigrants.
[00074-02.04]  [Original text: Castilian]
I am convinced that the local parish is still the best means we have for evanglization. I ask you, all pastors of the Americas to reflect on the following: 1) the parish as the best means for future evangelization; 2) on already existing models of parishes which achieved effective evangelization; 3) how we need to train and prepare priests and other ministers so that they can form and support evangelizing parishes of the future; 4) the creation of inter-Americas parishes which put into practice common strategies of revitalization.
My call and invitation to you as Pastors from the whole hemisphere is that we have a unique opportunity to learn from each other as well as discover the pastoral methods which more effectively revitalize all our parishes from Canada to Tierra del Fuego.
1) Let’s declare that revitalization of our parishes is a very important pastoral priority for all our local churches of the hemisphere, and let’s help to mobilize with new energy all our parish communities in preparation for the big Jubilee of the Year 2000 and the new Christian Millennium.
2) Let’s organize Seminars on Parish Revitalization throughout the whole hemisphere during 1998 in order to know which pastoral methods are the most effective with regard to the creation of dynamic parish communities, which are active and full of life.
3) Let’s promote Special Parish Revitalization Workshops together during 1999 and beyond in order to help our Pastors and pastoral leaders in developing models and the necessary capacity to create parishes full of energy, living parishes.
4) Let’s develop and publish material for Parish revitalization so that through this we can help our Pastors and their collaborators in the vision and implementation of a genuinely renewed and revitalized parish.
[00075-02.04]  [Original text: Castilian]
The native peoples, who pay a high cost in terms of marginalization and contempt, have preserved their cultural roots and identity and are now increasingly aware of and demanding their rights. Although they conserve concepts and expressions of their ancestral religions, they are not pagans. Thanks to five centuries of evangelization and the perfectly incultured role of the Virgin of Guadalupe, they have come to the faith and worship "the authentic God through whom we live", and by baptism have been joined with the Church.
They live in Latin America and are part of the Latin Church, but they are not Latins. Their world view, spirituality and organizational forms reveal other cultural roots. Although these young indigenous churches lack the 2000 year old tradition of eastern Catholics, formulas are required to join them in full communion with the Church without adversely affecting their identity and traditions.
[00076-02.04]  [Original text: Castilian]
In a world simultaneously undergoing two processes internationalization and globalization - we can see a complex reality in which there are different currents of thought and action. We have to discern the signs of the times and interpret them in the light of faith, in order to discover the challenges which the Church must face in her mission.
The Church is profoundly affected by these processes and is experiencing considerable difficulty in making the message of Christ penetrate into the various cultures. These are the great challenges for the pastoral mission in society and the social doctrine of the Church:
- the affirmation of the transcendent dignity of the individual;
- the basic equality of all human beings;
- the unity and complementary nature of all human beings;
- the affirmation of the diversity of each and every one of the authentic, specific values of the cultures of the various peoples and the need for authentic integration.
These are the basic human elements which will help us to promote a Christian culture of solidarity. The starting point will be to overcome the view of the relationship between countries seen in a purely structural basis, linked to systems of economic and political power, in order to contribute to the building up of an intercultural relationship based on Christian vision and experience. Among the many other proposals we can also point out a key one: to adopt the pastoral mission of society as the basis of evangelization.
[00077-02.04]  [Original text: Castilian]
The sects problem is acquiring dramatic proportions and is becoming worrying due to aggressive proselytism which they exert and religious fanaticism. We cannot remain indifferent to this phenomenon, as if it were an incomplete way to salvation, a sort of historical means through which God is now leading His universal salvation project.
The Church is a sacrament of salvation, the Body of Christ and the People of God. Her pastoral work stems from Her very essence. We need pastoral action which make it possible for mankind to mature in order to live those values which can only be perceived by faith, overcoming the temptation of reducing Her action just to a philanthropically dimension, supporting structures or preaching purely moralizing demands. Pastoral action of the Church must foster growth of individuals and communities, offering opportunities so that each person can develop the gift received, allowing participation, spontaneity, responsibility and commitment.
The sects problem can become a stimulus for the Church to "reform, correct Herself, and make an effort in order to recuperate that conformity with Her Divine Model which is Her fundamental duty" (Pope Paul Vl).
We should achieve renovation in a humble way, but also being certain and not indifferent, as well as being convinced that the Catholic Church has substantially remained faithful to Christ and His Gospel.
[00078-02.04]  [Original text: Castilian]
When we talk about new evangelization we refer implicitly to the first evangelization. This great event marked a turning point for the cultural identity of Latin America and the United States, and should be remembered as something which can and must teach us valuable lessons. The fact that the faith has been maintained in many of our peoples despite the successive waves of secularization as well as our own pastoral drawbacks, shows that it was a truly heroic epoch, the fruits of which we still enjoy today. We must learn and apply the historical lesson of the first evangelization: holiness. It should be humbly acknowledged - and amends should be made - that today, in many sectors, we are in a state of mediocrity. Evangelization has lost force because our human contribution is poor and inadequate. The call to holiness is less strong in the family, in Catholic schools and in our parishes. We have to renew the core of the Church. Our first task is therefore to implement what St. Paul said: "In the name of Christ we supplicate you: become reconciled with God!" Let us become reconciled with God in order to be holy as He is holy, let us reconcile ourselves with the communities of the Church in the North and the South, and then to give witness of credible reconciliation with the world and with mankind.
[00079-02.04]  [Original text: Castilian]
In the light of the New Evangelization there is a reflection on the family, threats and sin which damage it. Ways have been proposed to defend it and strengthen it both with regard to its identity and to its evangelizing mission and as a cradle of life.
A need to intensify respect and tolerance have been noticed, starting from a healthy attitude of ecumenism towards Christian communities and inter-religious dialogue with non Christian communities. What stands out is an aggressive attitude against the Catholic Church and disinterest for unity on the part of new religious movements and sects. Evangelization should be proposed to combat this kind of situation.
"There are no foreigners in the Church". The theme of the Hispanic Pastoral Work is a great challenge which must be tackled starting from solidarity of the Episcopal Conferences of Latin America, the United States and Canada. Pastoral action to help thousands of Latin Americans living in the northern regions - especially with reference to forming priests of Hispanic origin - has been proposed.
[00080-02.04]  [Original text: Castilian]
The Holy Eucharist, Source of Our Solidarity
Despite the many differences between the North and South of the American Continent, all Catholics are united in and through the Holy Eucharist. The Holy Eucharist is the most visible and effective structure already in place to ensure and deepen solidarity between the North and South.
To make the Holy Eucharist an even more effective instrument of solidarity, three concrete suggestions were offered: First of all, a petition could be recited at every liturgy and in the Divine Office referring to the Christian Baptismal obligation to work for justice. Secondly, a symbol of an empty chair; could serve as a visible reminder of the hungers of others throughout the world.
Finally, the Sunday celebration of the Lord’s Death and Resurrection challenges all Christians to take a new look at the meaning of human labor and life itself. The people of the Northern Hemisphere of America can learn much from the people of the Southern Hemisphere, especially with regard to the way family relationships are the heart and center of people’s lives; living and dying is always seen against the backdrop of the wider story of the community and the story of the Death Resurrection of Jesus Christ. By truly living the Eucharist, the Church in America can be built-up in solidarity!
[00082-02.02]  [Original text: English]
Foreign debt as a serious financial, human, ethical and moral problem.
1.1. The corruption problem: very often it is a matter of bad administration of necessary projects for the benefit of the individual who became rich.
1.2. Frequent conditioning on countries in debt, since they have more favorable conditions are made to credit institutions rather than to countries in debt. Sometimes countries in debt are manipulated by imposing conditions against their will. Sometimes interests paid reached the same amount of capital and this continues to generate other interests.
1.3. Support from international financial institutions (such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund) in favor of creditor countries.
1.4. Often foreign debt hinders development of debtor countries, some of which put aside 25% of their balance to pay interests. The sentence by Pope Paul Vl: "Development is the new name for peace" is in contrast with foreign debt.
1.5. A decent standard of living for people of countries in debt is hindered by foreign debt.
2.1. An urgent need to dialogue proposed by CELAM: with economists, politicians, entrepreneurs and professionals on ethical aspects of man and economy.
2.2. Relations of solidarity among nations not only on the occasion of natural disasters, but also in the case of social disasters, such as foreign debt.
From this standpoint we can hope for the following:
- renegotiating conditions;
- social mechanisms which make it possible to change foreign debt into ecological programs; social investment in favor of the marginalized;
- remittance of foreign debt (or at least of interests).
2.3. Governments have to be reminded not to bring about debts to the detriment of the people, so that they can know the specific reasons for the loan, its conditions and affects.
2.4. Whenever a debt is made there should be real democratic control in order to avoid handling and danger of corruption.
[00083-02.04]  [Original text: Castilian]
The dialogue between faith and culture is different in North America, where the faith has been predominantly Protestant, from the same dialogue in Latin America, where the faith has been Catholic. This difference creates a special difficulty for new immigrants from Latin America, who find themselves a minority (Hispanic) within a minority (Catholicism). Immigrant Hispanic Catholics have to find a new way to be Catholic in order to preserve their faith in what is often a culturally hostile environment. The situation calls for a new apologetics as part of the New Evangelization. It also calls for a clear distinction among Catholics between ecclesial communion and social solidarity, lest the Church seem to claim hegemony over the society or the Church’s mission be reduced to social amelioration. Solidarity reaches toward communion in the Church’s self-identification with the poor.
[00084-02.03]  [Original text: English]
On the theme "Encounter with the living Christ", on behalf of the Dominican Episcopal Conference we would like to make the following proposal: to create an organization, set up by the Holy See, combining the three Conferences: Canada, the United States and Latin America, with its own headquarters, permanent staff and rules for procedures; it should have the task of following up the proposals made by this Synod for America.
This should be a permanent organization and not just simple meetings as at present. An institution, set up by the Holy See with the aim of experiencing more effectively the mystery of communion and being the sign and instrument of the unity of all the members of the People of God and of the local churches together with the Universal Pastor. At the same time, this organization should be a valid witness to the unity and solidarity of civil society in America and the whole world.
With regard to the ecclesial communities and solidarity, the basic ecclesial community is where the lay faithful, integrated at the parish level, will work for new evangelization. It is a matter of involving everyone in their mission, of providing the opportunity for greater local participation in the work of evangelization so that no one is left behind in the spreading of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Since the diocese is a geographical unit subdivided into other units we call parishes, we must continue subdividing our territory into smaller and smaller units down to the level of 20 to 150 households. The small community should consist of all the families in the sector.
Just as we hold our diocesan and parish council, we should also set up a community council, a key organization for joining together men, women and young people with those responsible for community evangelization. The aim is to create faith, with conscious participation in the sacraments which communicate divine life, and organize everyone to follow Jesus so that the community will overflow with good works and so that everyone will prosper in a life of prayer in the family and in the community.
[00085-02.04]  [Original text: Castilian]
The attitude at the threshold of this Millennium is mostly disenchantment. There are various symptoms. However, the most obvious one is "tailor-made wonder": technology, an economic system which offers infinite possibilities for those who are not excluded from the system, religious proposals not meeting every need, etc. To break up this wonder and disenchantment we must place ourselves before our ulimate aims and ask ourselves about our hope. Faced with a lack of hope, our Lord is moved, He bends down and gets close to us with acts of proximity, where the Word becomes flesh. This is the meeting with the living Jesus Christ, the first Evangelizer. We should rediscover His way of getting close to us to evangelize. The key category is "proximity". Meeting, conversion, communion and solidarity are categories which express "proximity". The place where this proximity occurs is expression, in the flesh, of what the Holy Spirit is in the intimacy of the trinitarian life, whereby proximity between the Father and the Son is such that the Holy Spirit derives from it as a Person. We can say that the extent of hope is in proportion to the degree of proximity. In an open America, where men and women of different races and beliefs cohabit, the ground is ready for evangelical proximity to open the way to hope.
[00086-02.04]  [Original text: Castilian]
The migration phenomenon has been an integral part of the American Continent’s history and has marked the development stages both of the civil society and the Church. Today the migration flow is particularly marked by a great mass population movement both from inside the continent (especially from south to north) and from the different Countries.
Each place and period marked the phenomenon by new special features which the Church has to carefully face. Nowadays, most "emigrations" are due to war, violence and disaster - thus creating a vast group of refugees - or to hard and desperate economic situations. At the same time "immigrations" are subjected to restrictions and control which cause more and more difficulty and problems. This gives rise to the phenomenon of clandestine immigration which was mentioned by the Holy Father in his Message for the Day of Migration in 1996.
The migration phenomenon presents the Church both at departure and arrival with challenges and opportunities. The challenge is in offering in the name of Christ respect, welcome, assistance and protection to the new comer. Opportunity lies in human and Christian wealth which the new comer brings along and in the possibility of evangelizing the new comer.
A very special manifestation of human mobility on the American Continent is the pilgrimage to the numerous shrines - especially shrines devoted to the Virgin Mary - where careful pastoral work can and should bring wonderful fruit in evangelization, conversion and grace.
[00087-02.03]  [Original text: Italian]
The Sixth General Congregation concluded at 12.30 p.m. with the prayer "Angelus Domini". There were 219 Fathers present.