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16 November-12 December 1997

"Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ,
the Way to Conversion, Communion and Solidarity in America"

The Bulletin of the Synod of Bishops is only a working instrument for journalistic use and the translations from the original are not official.

English Edition


15 - 24.11.1997




At 5.15 p.m. today, with the singing of the prayer "Adsumus", in the presence of the Holy Father, the Twelfth 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. Eugênio DE ARAÚJO SALES, Archbishop of São Sebastião of Rio de Janeiro".

The following Fathers intervened:

Herein we publish the summaries of the following speeches:

H.Exc. Most Rev. Michael BZDEL , C.SS.R., Metropolitan Archbishop of Winnipeg of the Ukranians

The Catholic church in Canada today finds itself in a radically altered situation - an immigrant church that is now, for the most part, post-immigrant. We were born and took root within various ethnic, immigrant communities. In them, we flourished and achieved a rare and powerful faith enculturation, normally being the community’s key institution, its moral voice, its symbol for all that it held precious, and its collective voice. Most Catholics in Canada grew up on a virtual seminary (i.e., as in SEMINARIUM - latin for a nursery for young plants). Within that context - a strong ethnic, Catholic sociology - we know how to be Catholic. However, as more Catholics leave their immigrant homes, many, though not all, are losing their religious roots and are unable to keep much personal (especially ecclesial) faith alive. A new evangelization is needed that takes into account our post-immigrant, post-seminary situation. It will necessarily be focused on creating a faith that is based more on a personal encounter with the living Jesus Christ than upon any ethnic or social factors. Given the powerful experience of the Catholicism of our youth, we, the Church in Canada, approach this task with much hope.

[00166-02.02] [00154] [Original text: English]

H.Exc. Most Rev. Anthony Frederick TONNOS , Bishop of Hamilton

The call to seek unity is an imperative for all Christians. Its promotion has three related elements: spiritual means, practical cooperation and theological dialogue.

Spiritual Means: In the Canadian context, Christians participate in various forms of shared prayer, for example, during Lent, at civic occasions, and in times of tragedy. Bible studies, ecumenical prayer groups and clergy retreat days also enrich the spiritual life of participants and promote Christian unity.

Practical Cooperation: In Canada, areas of practical collaboration among Christians include a wide range of concerns, for example, poverty, human rights, life issues, aboriginal rights, corporate responsibility, and refugees. Joint action and the promotion of unity are accomplished through both coalitions and permanent structures, such as the Canadian Council of Churches to which the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops belongs.

Theological Dialogue: Ecumenical dialogue, both formal and informal, takes place with individual faith groups, as well as through the Canadian Council of Churches, which provides opportunities for inter-Christian and interfaith discussions.

Overall, the Canadian experience of ecumenism has been a positive one, marked by openness, cooperation and honesty. We rejoice in what has been accomplished and look to the future with hope.

[00167-02.02] [00155] [Original text: English]

H.Exc. Most Rev. Peter Alfred SUTTON , O.M.I., Archbishop of Keewatin-Le Pas

The church in Canada is, today, radically re-examining its relationship with the Aboriginal Peoples of that country in function of purifying and renewing its covenant with them. This re-examination has been sparked by a number of factors:

The recognition that we did not bring the Gospel to them in all its purity. Rather our initial missionary endeavor, for all its dedication, goodness and grace, was also marked by a lack of full respect for their culture and traditions and even, at times, by positive weaknesses and sin inherent in our own selves.

The recognition that the growth of our own way of life on the North American continent has, as a direct consequence, led to much suffering and deprivation for these peoples.

The recognition of the inherent richness and value within their own native religious, moral and cultural traditions.

The recognition that all future interrelation must be marked by a greater mutuality in every area.

The recognition that our dialogue with them today must too be a dialogue of action, i.e., a partnership in positively alleviating current injustices.

In a renewed and purified covenant we hope, together, to more fully encounter the living Jesus Christ

[00168-02.03] [00156] [Original text: English]

H.Exc. Most Rev. James Mathew WINGLE , Bishop of Yarmouth

The Church speaks, without cessation, of human life and of its integral dignity. She seeks to put in evidence the condition of the human being as the image of God. It will be important that the Synod for America accord a special support to persons who battle for life and for human dignity. In fact, the condition of the image of God, inherent in human being, constitutes the theological basis of one’s dignity.

For many years, the Bishops of Canada have fought for the most profound respect for life, from its conception until its natural end. They have always manifested a great vigilance in order to defend the smallest and the weakest. Confronted by neo-liberal forces, present in social and economic life, they have opted continually for the poor and the defenseless.

It is necessary today that social evil which oppresses and impoverishes our brothers and our sisters be identified and denounced. Often human life is not recognized in its integral dignity, and the human person is put under a false criteria of evaluation. Frequently there are violent assaults made on life on our continent, which puts us at risk of becoming accustomed to the death of millions of people and of considering it as inevitable, because it happens every day.

On listening to the voices of those men and women who suffer on account of poverty, of marginalization, or from other social evils, one understand the voice of Jesus who says: "Why do you search for me to kill me?" (Jn 7:19) The developments of technology demand to be put entirely at the service of the human person.

Today, this is the time to re-establish the evangelical truth in all that which touches human life. There is a great flock of individuals who search for answers deigned worthy of the human person, faced with the contemporary challenges of science, of technology, of law, of medicine and of politics. Let us act in solidarity with these persons who struggle for life and the quality of life.

This Synod reminds us anew that Jesus Christ has revealed to us that this is the true life, that life which has been given to us as a gift of God. "I have come so that you may have life and have it in abundance." (Jn 10:10). Our response lies in recognizing in each human person a unique value, because every human being is uniquely created in the image of God.

[00169-02.06] [00157] [Original text: French]

H.Exc. Most Rev. Iván MARÍN-LÓPEZ , Archbishop of Popayán

I am speaking on my own behalf. I am here as the least before you; fore, 5 months ago I was ordained bishop by the archdiocese of Popayán. I had the privilege to collaborate during 10 years in the Holy See with "Cor Unum", the charitable-solidarity Agency.

I was personally a witness of the concern of the Holy Father and the Holy See in preaching charity and at the same time alleviating those who suffer from poverty and social marginalization; helping the victims of natural disasters and wars, the poor and the excluded. I collaborated closely in the assistance to the indigenous peoples, Afro-Americans and poor farm workers with the Papal Foundation "Populorum Progressio"; I am familiar with the efforts to help the peoples of the Sahel, so seriously affected by desertification and hunger, with the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel.

Today, by the grace of God and after having experienced charity on the world scenario, I am now experiencing the basic evangelization process among a people who are mostly poor and simple. A multi-ethnic population, of whom 25% are blacks and 15% pre-Columbian indigenous people. In order to reach some of the communities, one has to travel 20 hours by hourse through narrow parths. There are also other communities where life expectancy at birth is only 35. In these poor and under-privileged communities, the love of Christ works wonders, people live in Christian fraternity with heroic acts. Six months ago, in one of these communities, isolated and without any health care, a woman was expecting her first child. The midwife said that the baby could not be born, its head was too big. In few minutes the alarm was raised, twenty young men were organized to carry her in relay for six hours to reach the first health care clinic. They got there in time, and the physician intervened and saved the woman and the baby. The people called the child "son of the community."

The Church’s living history teaches us that today as in the past, Christ’s love works wonders in the hear of man. Today as in the past, the Church is still credible because of the love of Christ which is manifested in her.

The concern of the church as expressed here in the Synod for alleviating the suffering of the under-privileged, in order to seek a response to the cry of the multitudes, comes from his founder Jesus Christ who, "did not come to be served but to serve" (Mt 20:28). The Church, continuing the saving work of Christ, must always be the Church of charity. Charity is the most profound core of her nature as well as her most visible, credible aspect.

The Church cannot survive without charity. Charity is a gift, it cannot be invented or produced, just received. The charitable Church is born out of the enthusiastic welcoming of the Word made flesh, and wherever the memorial of His death and resurrection is celebrated, the force of His spirit creates union of charity.

Charity, queen of all virtues, must inspire our work to defend human rights, for the integral promotion of man, for justice. It is the heart of the work of liberation.

In pastoral terms, there should be no confusion between justice and charity. Charity is not in competition with justice, but takes precedence over it, inspiring, sustaining, qualifying and finally surpassing it.

The encounter with the living Jesus Christ, theophany of the Father, gives us the grace to live in communion with Him and His disciples. The visible fruit of this communion in charity is the fraternal solidarity stated in N. 39 of the working document.

This encounter with the living Jesus Christ is the "finding of the precious stone" as has been said in this Hall, recalling the Lord’s parable, the stone for which we can give everything to acquire and keep.

To conclude, I would respectfully like to make the following considerations:

1. I believe that the ground has been prepared so that an encyclical on charity might recall to the Church the need to experience and give greater visible signs of the Love of Christ. The Tertio Millennio Adveniente has said that 1999 is to be the year dedicated to the virtue of charity. The persistence of so much poverty and under-privilege on our continent, the majority of which is Christian, shows that the Church’s greatest drawback is in the living experience of charity.

2. In 1999 we should celebrate the Year of Charity, ardently preaching the new commandment accompanied by concrete works and signs of love for the poor. A concrete form could be that each parish and each diocese dedicated a considerable part of its resources to pay for the debt burden on some local poor people.

3. Every bishop and priest should make a gesture showing that we want to live the Great Jubilee which we preach. This gesture could involve the donation of half our personal property before the year 2000. This offering could be handed over to the Populorum Progressio Foundation, showing communion and fraternity with Church working for the indigenous peoples, the Afro-Americans and poor farmers. This type of gesture would give more moral substance to our calling to international community to reduce or remit the external debt. Thank you.

[00170-02.04] [00158] [Original text: Caitlin]

H.Exc. Most Rev. Julián HERRANZ , Titular Archbishop of Vertara and President of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts

The Church is faced with a big challenge and in particular the apostolate of the lay faithful (university professors, judges, politicians and governing authorities, etc.), due to the great gap between morals and rights in the State systems, and consequently in society at large. Giving in to absolute subjectivism and ethical relativism undermines the State of law in its foundations: this is one of the basic teachings of the two great encyclicals "Veritatis splendor" and "Evangelium vitae".

Pope John Paul II summarized this problem with an incisive phrase during his last speech at the United Nations "the moral structure of freedom". The whole Magisterium of the Church in this century which is about to come to an end has been judged by the need to defend the human person and the moral structure of its freedom against two great ideological utopias which also became political systems at world level: a totalitarian utopia of "justice without freedom" and a libertarian utopia of "freedom without truth".

This latter utopia, which denies the existence of an objective truth with regard to the person and ethics, and entrusts to the exclusive opinion of the majority the decision to establish what is true and what is right , has been refused in almost all the civil legislations of Latin America, which are linked to the classical conception of law and Catholic cultural tradition. We should foster as much as possible the Catholic lay faithful in other American nations, who now form a culturally skilled and responsible minority, to succeed in this involving apostolic commitment: to protect the human person and human rights, against the culture of death and human degradation.

[00171-02.o4] [00159] [Original text: Italian]

H.Exc. Most Rev. José Dimas CEDEÑO DELGADO , Archbishop of Panama

The happy initiative of the Holy Father to summon the Bishops of America for a special assembly of the Synod aims at "promoting a new evangelization on the whole Continent as an expression of episcopal communion".

The Holy Father himself underlined on numerous occasions that the New Evangelization will be mainly carried out through the family.

Among the recommendations we wish to submit for consideration to the Synod Fathers is our commitment, as Pastors of the People of God, to strengthen and insist on the priority and urgency of pastoral actions for the family - this is where the future and destiny of mankind will be judged.

However, when speaking of the family we do not only think of a husband and wife, a father and mother, but also of the children, that is to say adolescents and young people. Family pastoral work must be organized in an integral way embracing and establishing close links to pastoral work of young people and vocational pastoral work.

The fact "That man cannot separate what God has joined together", cannot only be restricted to the husband and wife nucleus. In fact, pastoral work must take into account the total reality of the family as a natural and sacred shrine of the transmission of life.

Being a Synod for the whole American Continent, it is necessary to make effective the definition of Continent of Hope, in particular because the young population is the most numerous.

Hence the Latin American episcopate made a preferential option for young people at the General Assembly of Puebla.

[00174-02.04] [00162] [Original text: Castilian]

Rev. Msgr. Dennis SCHNURR , General Secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops

The motto "E pluribus unum" of the Great Seal of the United States of America is a reminder that from our beginning "unity in diversity" has characterized our national experience. That experience has been both a blessing and a challenge for the Church in the United States. This occasions a reflection on the way in which the Church in the United States experiences and strives for unity, especially in the midst of cultural, political and religious diversity.

The United States is a nation of many cultures, and this has been a blessing. For those who have eyes of faith, the beauty of God’s creation is most resplendent in the way in which the human person is present in so many different ways. Our cultural diversity, however, is also a challenge. In every generation of our existence we have struggled with discrimination based upon race and national origin. Gratefully, our Bishops preach regularly and insistently that, as a nation, we are "One Family Under God".

We are a society that reveres its political diversity, and this has been a blessing. For those with faith, this means that the pursuit of the call to holiness is completely unhampered. This diversity also presents challenges. In our democracy, divergent political viewpoints are more often resolved by a facile reliance on the rule of the majority than by a genuine discernment of what is best for the common good. Thus, unspeakable crimes such as abortion and physician-assisted suicide come to be embraced in the name of individual rights and democracy. The Bishops of the United States have responded forcefully in word and in action to this situation. Nearly alone, they contribute, in grace, to the revelation of the true face of Christ in our society.

The right to religious freedom - exercised in a democracy like our own - recognizes the reality of religious pluralism, especially within Christianity. This religious diversity has been a blessing. It has allowed us to pursue actively, with a variety of other Christians, the Lord’s prayer "ut unum sint" (JN 17:21). The challenge, of course, is that we avoid a false ecumenism. As desirable and necessary as the goal of unity is, the truth proclaimed must be the truth of Christ himself, not an image of Christ which is merely humanly acceptable. This is the evangelization to which all members of the body of Christ are called.

There are three implications embedded in this reflection that need mention. First, from a philosophical perspective, we must look not only at the reality of unity in diversity as an object to be understood, but at how it is that we live and experience this unity in diversity. The relation between the subjective and objective dimensions needs greater attention in the reflection. Second, we must recognize that the experience of unity in diversity in our nation is not something that is unique to this region of the world. With the rapid growth of commerce and communication, this experience is something which we will have to consider and understand in global terms. Finally, from a theological point of view, because the Trinity is the most perfect and most truthful experience of unity in diversity, it is to this mystery that we must look for the proper model and understanding of our experience. Ultimately, it is in the mystery of the Trinity that we experience genuine unity in diversity, true communion and solidarity.

[00180-02.02] [00166] [Original text: English]

H.Exc. Most Rev. Pierre MOUALLEM , of "Sociedade dos Missionários de Sao Paulo", Bishop of Nossa Senhora do Paraíso em Sao Paulo of the Greek-Melkites

Since Orientalium Dignitatis, Orientale Lumen, Vatican II and Orientalium Ecclesiarum, the entire Church has acknowledged the importance of the Eastern Christian heritage. In order to respond to the concern of man today, the Holy Father is turning to this heritage and is listening to the Eastern Churches, since the Christian East has a unique and privileged role.

The Church in America is 500 years old, and the Eastern Church is 2,000 years old. America’s problems all have their equivalent in the East. The 2,000 years of experience in the Eastern Church and her rich spiritual heritage may help the Church in America with the problems she is facing today.

However, there is a serious risk that this Eastern Christian heritage could disappear. Eastern Christians are continuously emigrating throughout the world, above all to America. While they have a safer life there, their Eastern Christian heritage is threatened with extinction.. We might ask the following.

1. Bishops should be facilitated in authorizing the many Latin priests and men and women religious of Eastern Rite origin to devote at least partial service to their Mother Churches in the Rites of these Churches.

2. The integral application of the Council declaration: "The Holy Council solemnly declares that the Eastern Rite Churches...have the right and the duty to govern themselves in accordance with their own particular rules...".

3. A Commission of Eastern Churches should be created within each Episcopal Conference.

4. The creation of higher Study Centers "pro oriente" (theology, liturgy, spirituality etc.).

5. Dual rite parishes and even monasteries (as in Chevetogne) should be created.

6. In schools, seminaries, novitiates or other training institutions, more space should be given to learning about the Eastern Churches and the wealth of their spiritual heritage.

[00181-02.04] [00167] [Original text: French]

H.Exc. Most Rev. Samuel Emmanuel CARTER , S.J., Archbishop Emeritus of Kingston in Jamaica

The question of Foreign Debt is of significant importance if we are to build fraternal solidarity based on the principles of justice and peace. Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean can bear testimony to the distressing situation brought about by the burden of Inter-national Debt. In these countries at least 180 million people are living in poverty. Even though Foreign Debt is not the sole cause of poverty in developing countries, it cannot be denied, that it has contributed to extreme privation. When children go hungry or die from preventable disease, when more money is spent on debt service than on health care or education, then the cost of debt in human terms is unjustified.

The principle that debts must be paid is certainly just. However, it is not right to exact payment when the effect would be the imposition of political choices leading to hunger and despair for entire peoples.

As the year 2000 approaches, we support the Holy Father’s call proposing the jubilee as an appropiate time to reduce substantially, if not cancelling outright, the Inter-national Debt which threatens many nations, the so-called Heavily-Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Programme initialed by the World Bank and I.M.F. is a positive development but lacks the support of the rich donor nations.

Now is the time for a new and courageous inter-national solidarity, not based on self-interest, but inspired and guided by a time concern for human beings.

[00182-02.02] [00168] [Original text: English]

H.Exc. Most Rev. Julio TERRAZAS SANDOVAL , C.SS.R., Archbishop of Santa Cruz de la Sierra

"Poverty and the poor": these are realities which have been strongly highlighted in different speeches by the Synod Fathers. They are the challenges of the work of our Pastors.

Bolivia rejoices since this option will continue to revitalize the hope of our people. They are people who ask their pastors every day for freedom which they feel is more and more difficult to reach.

Fortunately the life of our Lord reaches first of all the most humble. With them commences the kingdom which neither admits injustice nor exclusion.

It is obvious that "poverty and the poor" is not an accidental fact, it is not the result of chance, and not even a sign of incapacity on the part of the people.

Facts which generate poverty:

1. Foreign debt: this indefinitely postpones any right to economic freedom, political self-determination and participating selfmanagement.

I join the synodal call to urgently reduce and condemn this kind of debt, as long as this is for the benefit of the poor. What humanizes marks the way of the Church’s fidelity.

2. Migrations: Bolivia has a serious migration problem. About two million fellow countrymen live in neighboring countries; they leave in search of food and work. We are concerned about injustice, ill treatment and being despised. This happens due to lack of legislation for human and social protection, which would prevent any form of degradation.

3. Drug trafficking and decertification: it is said that Bolivia is "the drug trafficking country". We do not accept this definition, although we recognize that this scorge of mankind is present in our midst. We condemn drug trafficking as being intrinsically wicked. We are sorry that the whole society suffers from its consequences.

We wish America to know that behind "cocaine" there are 40,000 faces of peasants who cultivate this drug to survive and allow their families to survive. They are not the only ones to cause this evil of the North and South. There is also guilt on the part of those who consume cocaine. To eliminate drug trafficking is a task to be carried out by all nations. Certifying or not certifying a country, should be the mission of a community of nations and not just the privilege of one.

Ways towards the future: only those which can uproot the causes of poverty and increase solidarity and communion in the name of our Lord of Life.

[00183-02.05] [00169] [Original text: Castilian]


At the conclusion of the Twelfth General Congregation, the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, H. Em. Card. Jan P. SCHOTTE, C.I.C.M. issued the following communique:

"With the approval of the Presidents-Delegate, the Commission for the Message has been established. In addition to the President and the two Vice-Presidents, appointed before the opening of the Special Assembly, five members, an expert and three assistants have been appointed".

The Secretary General announced that the Commission for the Message would be composed of the following members:

H. Em. Card. Jean-Claude TURCOTTE , Archbishop of Montreal

H.Exc., Most Rev. Theodore E. McCARRICK , Archbishop of Newark
H.Exc. Most Rev. Kelvin E. FELIX , Archbishop of Castries

H.Exc. Most Rev. Román ARRIETA VILLALOBOS , Archbishop of San José de Costa Rica
H.Exc. Fernando Antônio FIGUEIREDO , O.F.M., Bishop of Santo Amaro
H.Exc. Most Rev. Alberto GIRALDO JARAMILLO , P.S.S., Archbishop of Medellín
H.Exc. Most Rev. Justin RIGALI , Archbishop of Saint Louis
Rev. Msgr. Dennis SCHNURR , General Secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops

Rev. Msgr. Louis DICAIRE , Episcopal Vicar of Montreal

Rev. Philippe CURBELIÉ , Archdiocese of Toulouse
Rev. Anthony FIGUEIREDO , Archdiocese of Newark
Rev. Enrique REYES , Diocese of Durango


The Twelfth General Congregation concluded at 7.00 p.m. with the prayer "Angelus Domini". There were 200 Fathers present.


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