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.
17 - 25.11.1997
Today at 5.05 p.m., in the Synod Hall, in the presence of the Holy Father, with the "Prayer for the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops" in Castilian, the Fourteenth General Congregation of the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops opened with the First Auditio. The President Delegate on duty was H. Em. Card. Roger Michael MAHONY, Archbishop of Los Angeles.
The following Auditors spoke:, Executive Director of the Department of the Laity of the Episcopal Conference of Argentina
Herein we publish the summaries of the interventions by the following Auditors:
Let us thank John Paul II for having convoked this Synod which has helped us to discover a new dimension to our American identity. Today, the Church is especially called to listen, to exercise her teachings of charity for people disturbed by the changes in our societies. A baptized and secularized America shows signs of the ever renewed presence of God. We can therefore perceive positive and painful signs together with hopes.
Among the positive signs arising among Christians and men and women of good will, whether or not they are believers, we can include the democratization of the Latin American countries, which has facilitated and extended the processes of regional integration and political cooperation such as Mercosur, the Rio Group and the hemisphere-wide or Ibero-American agreements.
An examination of the awareness of lay people requires us to acknowledge that we have lost our identity as Christians in the idolatry of power, wealth and vanity. The Jubilee gives us hope: Jesus has come and is among us to heal the wounds of our soul, to transform us Christians who are also sinners.
After a lack of communication, this Synod is an important chance to bring the Church nearer to the changing culture of men. This Synod will be especially important for youth. We must help young people to create a culture which recognizes their talent, a culture which is austere and characterized by transparency. On the international scale, this means a culture of solidarity and responsible international agreement.
This Synod is not called upon to solve problems, propose solutions or express new doctrines. We count upon the inexhaustible spring of the Gospel, the as yet insufficiently exploited Vatican II Council, and the transparent witness of many saints who live the commitment to their faith on a daily basis.
I hope that this meeting will give rise to numerous initiatives with the participation of politicians, university professors, trade unionists, intellectuals, artists, professionals and the whole range of those who built American society, in order to discuss the serious problems of our region.
The Holy Father John Paul II recently announced that the World Congress of the Lay Apostolate would be convoked. Diocesan organizations should be set up in all the American dioceses for promoting awareness of the responsibility of the lay faithful to society and the Church.
[00223-02.04] [UD15] [Original text: Castilian]
My country has lived economic and social experiences of the capitalist and socialist systems. We have learnt that no political system or economic system has a solution for problems of the world in which we live. We are experiencing a serious crisis of Christian values and especially human values. For this reason our people are turning their eyes to Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
The Church of Cuba is faced with some challenges which are particular, such as:
- Promoting reconciliation of a divided peoples
- Supporting the reconstruction of civil society
- Proclaiming the dead and risen Christ, a sign and symbol of hope.
Our communities receive people who look for hope, a Word which does not rob, the Word of God. They are the new apostles of the new evangelization in Cuba, but their presence is a challenge, Then they have the mentality, language, customs and working methods of an atheist world in which they were formed.
Most of our people recognize in the fidelity of our Church a sign of hope and they feel that they have a word to say on behalf of God: about love and reconciliation, freedom and pardon, justice and peace.
Our Pastoral Plan has chosen three priorities:
- integral promotion which allows man to recognize His dignity as son of God, taking on his responsibility;
- the integral formation which leads to an authentic experience of God, restoring to man his status as a person;
- the creation and renovation of communities joined in love, focused on the Word and the Eucharist which fosters lay participation and development of personal charisms.
Today we are going to proclaim case by case the person of Christ, inviting everybody to receive the Holy Father.
[00232-02.004] [UD16] [Original text: Castilian]
Awaken, listen and learn, Bishops of the Synod and other leaders of groups at the Synod, about the potential at hand for evangelizing and spreading the Gospel message and social justice principles in public and private institutions, occupations and professions by secular institute leaders or members.
Leaders in secular institutes are willing to address the nature of secular institutes to young and older adults who are self-supporting. There are several consecrated secular leaders who can be of assistance in revitalizing a parish or professional area according to the message of this Synod for a deeper encounter with the Living Jesus Christ.
[00209-02.02] [UD01] [Original text: English]
This presentation is a reflection on the future of religious institutes of Sisters and of Brothers in America. In Vita Consecrata, Pope John Paul II says that "consecrated life is at the very heart of the Church" (VC 3), that it "can never fail to be one of her essential and characteristic elements, for it expresses her very nature" (VC 29).
In view of this forceful affirmation of consecrated life, I think it important to recognize and reflect upon the small number of explicit references to religious life throughout the first week of this Synod. In fact, there seems to me to be a certain lack of continuity with the Synod on consecrated life. To focus on the laity is of course a proper response to the call of all the baptized to holiness and to participation in the mission of evangelization. Moreover, given the scarcity of vocations in many institutes of Sisters and Brothers, it is an appropriate response to a need that is becoming progressively more urgent. It would be a very serious mistake to conclude, however, that because lay men and women can perform the services rendered by Sisters and Brothers, the diminution or even demise of their institutes need not be taken too seriously. On the contrary. The loss of the presence of Sisters and Brothers would be a sad loss for the Church. As the Holy Father states in Vita Consecrata, the mission of religious is far more than performing certain needed services. Their primary task is to make the loving and saving presence of Christ a visible and active reality in the world today (VC 72,76).
Bishops certainly have no magic formula for helping religious find solutions to the lack of vocations. Nevertheless, Bishops can be of assistance 1) by personally interiorizing the content of Vita Consecrata and by propagating it in their dioceses; 2) by expressing publicly that they consider the presence of religious Sister and Brothers to be of great importance, that they hold their vocation in high esteem, and that they strongly encourage vocations to it.
[00210-02.02] [UD02] [Original text: English]
The Leadership Conference of Women Religious in the United States comprises 94% of the 83,400 women religious. Its 41 year history has been marked by three purposes: the transformation of religious life by supporting and developing religious leadership, the engagement of appropriate congregations at the Holy See in ongoing dialogue, the change in unjust social structure through asserting appropriate influence.
Women religious applaud and support the attention given to issues of foreign debt, globalization, immigration, ecumenism, development of the laity, family, youth, education and healthcare needs.
The three proposals are rooted in the Apostolic Exhortation, Vita Consecrata, which followed the 1994 Synod for Consecrated life. The proposals are:
1. Put in place appropriate mechanism to separate jurisdiction from ordination so that the non-ordained, particularly women, may participate in decision-making processes in areas where they have responsibility, particularly when it concerns them.
2. Make use of the competencies of women who are skilled at conflict resolution, consensus-building, collaborative decision-making in multicultural/international arenas so the Church of American can better model the partnership of disciples.
3. Create an inter-American ecclesial council to implement the desires of this Synod. Include in its composition members from the episcopal, consecrated life and lay conferences so that our Church, with all the faces of the People of God, can be built up in love.
[00211-02.02] [UD03] [Original text: English]
The theme of my reflection is the challenge of entering into and engaging the culture of youth. Encounter with young people is a principal focus of the work of the men religious in the United States. Youth in my country like the youth of many countries today live in what is for all practical purposes a subculture. It is our experience that we can best reach out to them in ministry by using the principles of inculturation and by employing many of the insights that we have learned from ministering to differing cultures in our country and in the missionary work done by our 2,200 missionaries from our institutes around the world.
It is our experience that we most fail in ministry to youth when we attempt to engage young people from our own expectations about how adults would respond to mission and ministry by the Church. We most succeed when we make the effort to understand youth on their own terms, when we appreciate the profound sincerity and honesty that they frequently exhibit, and when we listen to them to comprehend the sometimes overwhelming pressures that dominate their lives. We succeed the most when we respect them and are willing to assume that they are trying to do their honest best with gifts they have in the situations that they face. Clearly we can do this and still maintain fidelity to our own Catholic moral values and beliefs. It takes, however, hard work. It frequently takes the same difficult work that any process of cross-cultural mission and ministry demands. Men and women religious are uniquely positioned to engage the world of the young with the Gospel message. We have the privileged opportunity to be brother and sister to them.
Today let us each listen to the voices of young people throughout our hemisphere. They are the voices of hope, voices of struggle, voices calling out for welcome and understanding, voices that often are marginalized and pushed aside, voices that call out to us to help create a more just and human economic and political system. I am confident that those voices will be heard, that this Synod will seek to create a more loving, welcoming, understanding, hopeful Church. Ours then will be a Church where the young and the most marginalized can find the home that they so often cannot find in the world in which the youth of today find themselves.
[00212-02.02] [UD04] [Original text: English]
While many African American Catholics are excited and enthusiastic about their Catholic faith, too many more clergy, religious, and laity are hurt, angry, disappointed, and feel isolated and marginalized. With attention and emphasis on the Hispanic needs and concern, many feel that issues in the African American community are ignored. Many African American still view the Church as a racist institution. These tensions demand a change of attitude and command us to "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ".Conversion also means "turning over the tables", destroying the "status quo" attitude; and starting anew in Christ. This Synod must propose ways to reach the people of God with new attitudes of total inclusiveness that ask, "Who is missing?" and "How shall we include them?" not in patronizing way, but with the love of Jesus Christ. We should verbally remind each other of our belief in the dignity of each human person, created in God’s image.
Addendum: History of Evangelization of America - No discussion of the history of evangelization of America would be complete without the following:
1. Slavery of Africans in America resulted in Catholic slaveowners who baptized and catechized the slaves, providing a foundation for the presence of African American Catholics.
2. Catholic education and Catholic schools were and are the principal means of evangelization among African Americans.
3. National Churches were established as Irish, German, Polish, and Italian people come to the USA, and became centers for attracting and keeping the faithful, though far away from their native lands.
4. People like Mother Seton , Mother Mary Lange (founder of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, Baltimore, Maryland and founded schools for blacks); Mother Katherine Drexel (who found means to educate Blacks and Native Americans), and other, contributed more than a note to Catholic evangelization. The Josephite Fathers (19th century) were and are dedicated to the evangelization of Blacks.
5. Black saints, such as St. Martin de Porres provided inspiration for many Black Catholics.
It is a tribute to our ancestor Black Catholics that they held strongly to the faith and passed it on to many generations.
[00213-02.01 [UD05] [Original text: English]
The convoking of the Synod of America is a prophetic gesture on the part of the Holy Father who is making an effort to redraw the relationships between North and South without ideological prejudice or economically-oriented and anthropological simplifications, starting from faith in the mystery of the Incarnation.
The great perspective deriving from the prophetic intuition of the Vicar of Christ and a realistic view of the challenges for the evangelization in the third millennium must be based on ecclesial communion. Within this we find a need reconciliation. There can be no true communion without authentic reconciliation. This must be applied ad intra Ecclesiae, as well as at the continental level in accordance with the Pope’s intuition, in order to foster a fruitful communion which is the expression of fraternity, justice and solidarity stemming from the charity which comes from God. This reconciliation cannot be based on geographical nearness or market necessities. It is rather based on the person of the Lord Jesus and must become the life and daily experience of the Church.
Among the peoples of the continent, the need for reconciliation and communion is especially supported by the Virgin Mary. The Mother of the Redeemer and Reconciler expresses the reconciliation and communion between North and South. My prayer is that the apostolic exhortation which will be the fruit of this assembly be offered to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
[00214-02.04] [UD06] [Original text: Castilian]
There is a wide variety of ecclesial movements helping to promote the values of the Kingdom. Some of them fall within the tasks of the Church - the parishes and dioceses - and others within the temporal sphere.
The importance and strength of these movements was already recognized at Medellín, Puebla and Santo Domingo, and especially by the Post-Synodal Exhortation Christifideles Laici, as well as previously by Vatican II.
What should be expected from these movement? According to LG 12, the church hierarchy should judge the authenticity of charisma and its reasonable manifestation, though without "suffocating the Spirit". It is therefore necessary to respect and protect the charisma of each movement in order to foster the good of the ecclesial community.
It is neither theologically nor pastorally proper to ignore the ecclesial movements inspired by the Spirit, and they should not be standardized as if every movement could be used for any purpose. The challenge of a Church on communion is in being able to integrate the different movements into a joint pastoral action without their losing their own identity.
There is a continental ecclesial movement serving the Church in America from Canada to Tierra del Fuego and the Caribbean. It gave and continues to give life to other movements and ecclesial initiatives. It is the cursillo movement . Its role in the Church is within the prophetic and charismatic pastoral effort with a focus on local activity.
Its aim is to bring men and women to the encounter with the living, personal Christ through knowledge, living and experiencing Christian principles. It must help us to discover and achieve our own vocation and to prepare people and groups or small communities to spread the Gospel on the local level or in temporal organizations.
In order to achieve this goal, the cursillo movement has its own strategy and methodology. Commitment to this organic aspect will ensure the survival of the cursillo movement and its evangelizing potential.
[00215-02.04] [UD07] [Original text: Castilian]
Part I, Chapter II, of the Instrumentum Laboris, speaks of the Gospel and the Means of Social Communication. «Communio», communion, is an ideal of this Synod. The Acts of the Apostles, Chapters two through seven, vividly describe the earliest community of Christians in Jerusalem, where a sense of «communio» was strong, profoundly and expressly situated in reverence for the Apostles, for whom Peter was the acknowledged voice. Led by the Apostles, this community sought personal holiness and served those in need. The Church is obliged to call to holiness all people at all times -among them Catholic communicators. Themselves called to holiness, and thus to «communio» within the Church, Catholic journalist should not rebut the Roman pontiff nor prompt a disregard for the bishops in the name of legitimate dialogue. While calling all communicators to truth, the Church willingly should provide information about itself. The Church also must take very seriously the powerfully exploitative, and misleading, elements in popular music, cinema, and advertising.
[00216-02.02] [UD08] [Original text: English]
The statement is a reflection on the centrality of the missionary vocation of the particular churches in America and Paragraph 9 of the Instrumentum Laboris. Given the global context of an interdependent and suffering world, mission, which is essential to the Church’s identity, is ever more urgent. The Church in Latin America approaches mission ad gentes "out of its poverty" and with an increasing awareness of the importance of inculturation as it offers the Gospel from the richness of its multicultural -indigenous, Afro-American and European- mosaic. The North and South American churches are accutely aware of the importance of mission ad gentes for revitalizing the life of the sending and receiving churches. They are also deeply aware of the lives of witness -even to the point of martyrdom- that have enriched our churches and produced a tremendous response to the missionary call, especially among the laity. Based on the United States bishop’s pastoral letter To the Ends of the Earth, Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Redemptoris Missio, and developments in the Latin American missionary movement, the statement emphasizes the importance of expanding the concept of mission beyond geographical and numerical criteria to include sociocultural shifts, and underscores the Gospel’s power to overturn structures of sin and oppresion.
[00217-02.02] [UD09] [Original text: English]
His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, in his message addressed to the Bishops at the XXVI Ordinary Assembly of CELAM held last month in Rio de Janeiro, told them "We meet at a decisive time for the Church and mankind. Faced with this, it is important to renew, prepare and fill ourselves with spiritual energy which will then turn into projects and pastoral realities in order to proclaim the Good News to all the men and women, to all peoples of ethnic groups and cultures, reaching thusly ‘to all Creation’ according to the wish of our Lord (Cfr. Mk 16:15)...". Consecrated Life welcomes this call and we suggest urging innovation, which marked the Second Vatican Council, Medellin, Puebla and Santo Domingo and which current circumstances have made even more pressing. The fact of entering the new millennium is an event which strongly questions the Church and our consecrated life.
The Synod is an excellent opportunity for the Churches of the Continent (which gathers over half of the members of the Catholic Church in the world) to analyze their respective situations, complicated and different relations among themselves and face the challenges affecting them in announcing the the Gospel. As a result, it is necessary as the Instrumentum laboris says "to increase solidarity among the different local Churches in the different areas of pastoral action". For said solidarity in religious life we are preparing the second Continental meeting for the Conferences of Religious Men and Women of Canada, the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean.
However, the solidarity of our American peoples, cannot clearly free them from the bonds of the economic, political and cultural system. In fact it is here where one considers the every day life of people who suffer from poverty, unemployment, discrimination, those who leave their country in search of other possibilities. These factors draw in part the world in which the Church must be present.
Pope John Paul II told the Bishops of Atlantic Canada "Real solidarity means we must work in order to eliminate the roots of human misery, both one’s own and of others, also if this implies sacrifice on our part or, if necessary, offer our necessities and not only what ‘we have leftover...’" (27.09.1988).
[00218-02.04] [UD10] [Original text: Castilian]
1. My topic is the dialogue with intellectual non-believers. The saving universal will of God the Father requires us to consider them as the "Ecclesia abscondita" in which the spirit of the Lord is active and which the "Ecclesia manifesta" tries to attract.
2. This is a difficult task due to problems in mutual comprehension. Today the intellectual non-believers are open to great intuition, but to compare them with the reality of the universe, the temporary, easily falsified nature of any conclusions requires us to submit them to ‘facts’ as a criterion of truth.
3. Proposals: a) The use of calm, sober language to explain the faith. B) Institutional dialogue in which both sides support their ‘beliefs’ and take their counterpart seriously. C) Assuming the ‘naturalness’ of things as the standard of morality and not merely values or consequences. D) The development of the social doctrine of the Church in a form which is spiritually free from commitment and concerned with the protection of the poor as a means to convince non-believers of the honesty of the intentions of the "Ecclesia manifesta", the first stage in passing the test on her motivations.
[00220-02.04] [UD12] [Original text: Castilian]
1. In the intensive activity of the church in America there seems to be a fragmentation in meaning, so that the unity of the life given by the sole love of the Church, Jesus Christ, is not always clear.
2. The Virgin Mary is the personal face of the Church. Perceiving Mary in her identity as spouse, the Church receives God’s voluntary gift to man and to His creation as realized by the Cross.
3. The renewal of the quality of martyrdom in the Church’s love consists in continuing the witness of God to His Son; in Him, through water and blood, we have eternal life. The Spirit, the water and the blood: in other words, the Holy Spirit and the Church with her sacraments of the resurrection of the Savior, testify that glory belongs to Him who was crucified.
4. The witness of the New Testament is this glory of the Cross, which is the gift God made of Himself. Exalting the glory of He who was crucified means announcing to the world how much He loved God, especially since the Cross as such does not attract anyone. But the Cross is actually life because it represents love taken to the extreme, victorious love as revealed in the resurrection.
5. Devotion throughout America to Our Lady of Guadalupe confirms the conviction of the need for undertaking the canonization of Juan Diego so that he may be counted among the saints of the Universal Church.
[00221-02.04] [UD13] [Original text: Castilian]
It is from this vision that I address the Religious women of Latin America and the Caribbean, the USA and Canada. They live among the people guided by evangelical reason ‘in signum fraternitatis’, as epiphany of the Church’s vocation to unity; their mission marked as far as martyrdom has a taste of knowledge and directs them along the way, However, in order for participation in ecclesial life to be marked by more fruitful reciprocity, it is necessary "to carry out some concrete steps starting from the opening up and leaving room to women to participate in various sectors at all levels - also in the decision-taking process, in particular with regard to what concerns them" (VC No. 58).
In the light of what was said in the VC, I wish to give the Synod Fathers some important issues highlighted by the female consecrated life. Attention should be paid to female consecrated life because innovative calls strongly marked by the Pope in VC are transformed from desires into practice of life in the Church of America; of being involved in the Renewed Christological catechesis. This requires theological and catechetical formation of religious women to be made easier: hence it is indispensible to be able to have access to Advanced Theological Schools in the area, also fostering the presence of female professors and including female consecrated women in study and research (Cfr VC No. 58).
We wish the Church of America to have a new season where, by also using the vital experiences of consecrated women, it will be possible for female self-awareness (Cfr VC No.57a) in view of the future.
[00222-02.04] [UD14] [Original text: Italian]
An urgent subject which will grow more urgent in the future is that of the elderly, to whom John Paul II addressed these words in Munich in 1980: "You are a treasure for the Church, you are a blessing for the world". Impoverished by advancing age and marginaled by society, the elderly merit a place in the Church’s preferential option for the poor. The physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs of every human person, are heightened in the elderly.
Given the moral climate in society, the elderly must be protected from suicide and euthanasia. Alleviating the suffering of the very ill, helping them give it redemptive meaning, associating family members to the care given, contribute to reversing the culture of death’s threat.
Accompanying the elderly on their journey towards the Kingdom means leading them to pray for themselves and others, affording them the benefits of the Sacraments, and with their families, assisting them in their dying. In the ultimate moment there is an encounter with the living Christ. As a Little Sister of the Poor, I have witnessed the death of many elderly who depart in peace and serenity, with Sisters and loved ones present.
From faith in Christ’s presence in each person, whatever the state of physical decline, flows joy in their service and humble suggestions for the Church’s care of the elderly, "sources of wisdom and witnesses of hope and love" (cf. EV 94).
[00234-02.02] [UD18] [Original text: English]
"Ask and you shall be given". I come to ask with full confidence for two things:
I am addressing my Fathers, Pastors and Teachers. 1. I ask for a strict call to the lay faithful so that through the grace of the living Jesus Christ, we can sanctify political life, understood
in its most noble and profound meaning.: a management of common good. Inside this lay vocation which is a prudential virtue and with its relative autonomy, we take into account the two elements which make it possible.
The principles and values of the Social Doctrine of the Church and the dramatic realities of our nations.
Dear Bishops: You are Authorities (auctor-autoris) and for this reason you know what it is about. It is about "Omnia Instaurare in Christo". It is about "Seek the Kingdom of God and His justice and from this everything else will be given to us". We know by experience that those who only seek something else will not find it, and will also lose the kingdom.
It is a matter of evangelizing, according to the new expression "incarnate the faith in conscience and in social life".
2. I also ask to push for the canonization of the Indian (already the Blessed) Juan Diego in view of greater development and in-depth study of Marian catechesis. May the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mary of Narareth be understood. When evangelization is carried out in her image it shows "the blessed fruit of her womb", the living Jesus Christ, as the only way of our conversion, our communion and our solidarity in America.
[00233-02.04] [UD17] [Original text: Castilian]
The Fourteenth General Congregation concluded at 19.00 p.m. with the prayer "Angelus Domini". There were 207 Fathers present.
The sessions of the Circuli Minores will continue tomorrow morning, Wednesday 26 November 1997, for the election of the Relators and the continuation of the general discussion on the Synodal theme.
The Fifteenth General Congregation will be held tomorrow afternoon, Wednesday 26 November 1997.
The next Bulletin will be published late on the morning of Thursday, 27 November 1997.