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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


23 - 02.12.1997



Here follows the summaries of the relations presented at the Nineteenth General Congregation this morning and not received before the deadline for Bulletin N. 22:


English C - H. Exc. Most Rev. William Joseph LEVADA, Archbishop of San Francisco - Relator

In the preparation of this report, the Synod Fathers and other members of the group proceeded by means of a systematic discussion of the Relatio post Disceptationem. In this process, the group reached consensus on the following ten (10) principal issues, which we offer to the Synodal delegates:

1- We recommend that more attention be given to the role of the Holy Spirit in the new evangelization of America, presuming that the general theme of encounter with the living Jesus Christ will be maintained.

2- We recommend that a new treatment of the ecumenical dimension of this evangelization be prepared, stressing the real but imperfect communion we share with other baptized Christians, our special relationship with the Orthodox Church, and our organic relationship with the Jewish people. Synod ecumenical statements should carefully distinguish between evangelical Christians on the one hand, and "sects and new religious movements" on the other. In this light, it is important for the Church to carefully examine the reasons why Catholics are attracted to evangelical churches or to other new religious movements, and use this as a basis for reexamining our current pastoral and theological focus.

3- We recommend that Synod statements present a more comprehensive treatment of indigenous peoples, with greater attention to both the positive and negative aspect of the "first evangelization", and to the need to express our solidarity with them in their current struggles for justice and cultural identity.

4- The "life issues" should be distinguished from the treatment of family life, given that they require unique educational, media, and public policy efforts, and belong properly to the question of solidarity in justice.

5- There is a need to treat more systematically the question of human freedom, situating it within its necessary (and all too often neglected) relationship to truth and to moral responsibility.

6- In the treatment of women and family, attention should be given to the call to motherhood, expressed both physically and spiritually, without neglecting the significant contributions of women in religious life, education and health care. As well, the role of men as fathers should be underscored, stressing the equal and mutual responsibility they share with their wives for the creation of a community of life and love.

7- The role of the lay faithful in the evangelization of secular society should be recognized and supported with a deep catechetical and spiritual formation in both fundamental Christian doctrine and its application to social and professional life. In this light, a brief and accessible synthesis of Catholic social teaching could be prepared which stresses its intrinsic links to the new evangelization.

8- Given that sections on the laity and consecrated life already exist, we recommend that a section on ordained ministry be included, which would address issues of priestly formation and the particular roles of deacons, priests, and bishops in the new evangelization.

9- We recommend that the great contribution of Catholic education be recognized, and the importance of maintaining its clearly Catholic identity.

10- The uniqueness of the African-American experience in the Americas needs to be recognized by a more extensive treatment of the question of slavery, its lingering effects in many areas of our society, and the pervasive effect of racial divisions in our society.

The Group also reached consensus on the issues of further developments in lay ministries, a clearer reflection on the importance of inculturation (both liturgical and catechetical), better use of the means of communication, and a systematic reflection on the complex question of the international debt. It also recommended that an alternative model of organizing the material might be considered, one which takes into account the reality of communion as a central theme, as gift of God, foundation and goal, conversion as a means or way to this communion, and solidarity as a fruit or expression of communion put into action.

[00283-02.04] [CM04] [Original text: English]

Castilian E - H. Exc. Most Rev. Juan Francisco SARASTI JARAMILLO, C.I.M., Archbishop of Ibagué - Relator

The work of the Group initially concentrated on highlighting the concluding report of the works in the Hall. They pointed out some shortcomings and proposed some basic topics needing emphasis, such as:

- the identity of the Church, her internal situation, including her crises, and her mission in the world;

- the Diocese as a local Church presided over by a successor of the Apostles - responsibility which cannot be renounced by any bishop;

- priests, deacons and other pastoral agents, their place in the church, their ministerial action, their initial and permanent formation;

- the Eucharist, fundamental for Communion and a privileged form of encounter with the living Christ.

It also specified important theological approaches needed to structure the whole work of the Synod, such as:

- a Christology whose departing point is the trinitarian mystery;

- a pneumatological sign which highlights the action of the Holy Spirit in relation to the meeting with the living Jesus Christ;

- an ecclesiology of communion and mission;

- a presentation of the Gospel as proclamation and presence of the Kingdom of God among mankind;

- reference to the "Witnesses of the faith" in America, saints and martyrs must not be missing.

To continue the members of the Group proposed studying each one of the seven questions presented by the general Relator in his concluding report.

As regards "neoliberalism", the Fathers recognized that market economy had real values, but it is not acceptable for the market to have a value above the value of a human being and the real good of the people. This has produced many marginalized people, poor people, excluded people, and not only individuals but also peoples and whole continents. The basic problem is that economy has been converted to a way of measuring everything. It is important to recover value, capacity and the influence of politicians so that they and not economists decide the fortune of a peoples. The economy must be subjected to politics and morals.

Passing to the concept of globalization, they specified that usually this is used to refer to a free world economic market without ethical references of a social nature. This meaning cannot be accepted by a Christian. In an ecclesial environment this is used more to refer to intercommunication and interdependence in the world today. The Pope spoke of "globalization in solidarity". This meaning is related to different Christian concepts without leading to an expression of the fullness of "communion".

With regard to inculturation, it was said in the Group that it is fundamental to start from the mystery of the Word made man; everything has to be taken in, healed and elevated by the Lord’s incarnation, passion, death and resurrection. We should also acknowledge the cultural pluralism of America and the faster cultural change occurring now at the end of the century. Occasionally, inculturation becomes charged with ideology. Inculturation which leads to the loss of the Christian identity would not be authentic. With regard to liturgical inculturation, we believe that enough was done, and with enthusiasm, just after the Council, but now there is a sensation of fatigue. For authentic inculturation we should know both the liturgy and culture very well; otherwise, the result is simply folklore or a slide into syncretism with the loss of liturgical authenticity.

The causes leading Catholics to leave the Church were analyzed, citing some examples:

- We have not managed to evangelize the cultural roots of our people.

- Evangelization has been insufficient, often without human promotion.

- Faith and commitment are superficial.

- An organized campaign financed to destroy the Catholic Church because of its criticism of neo-liberalism.

- A lack of feeling, depth and participation in our liturgical celebrations.

Then we discussed the pastoral activity for young migrants who encounter many legal, labor, social and cultural difficulties. Most of them do not have identification documents, and are sometimes in prison and even ill-treated. They form part of cheap manpower and are subjected to sometimes inhuman exploitation, such as prostitution. The churches who receive them must serve as religious and community points of reference so that these young people do not lose their cultural roots and Church membership. The original churches should also organize preparation and assistance programs.

The Group then dealt with the means to intensify ecumenical relationships. The situation is different in various regions of America. We should start from the affirmation that ecumenical relationships are the fruit of great patience and should start from the conviction that "there is more that unites us than that which divides us." We should deal with these relationships by fostering a climate of friendship and charity with the pastors. There is usually a possible sphere for practical collaboration in social projects benefiting the community. With some we can also start joint prayer initiatives and work for peace, human rights, the defense of life, and thefavoring of sexual morality and family life. We should always deal with the total truth, sincerity and clarity in order to avoid confusion among the faithful. Ecumenism is not Irenism. Highlight the dialogue of friendship, the dialogue of joint work, the dialogue of prayer and doctrinal dialogue; always maintain a profound attitude of dialogue, as in the Word when we approach men,. This assumes an unceasing conversion in the church, exercising charity in truth and truth in charity.

Finally we asked how to intensify the interchange of priests in order to help dioceses with a shortage of clergy. One alternative which is always possible is collaboration between dioceses in the "Sister Church" project. This collaboration should preferably foster and increase local vocations. Collaboration should start within the Episcopal Conference of each country. We have to strengthen the missionary mentality in each diocese and train seminarians there. We bishops should deal with this theme with our responsibility in universal evangelization, and in the context of Christian solidarity with its requirements of justice and charity. But the ideal is not external dependence, but rather a supply of our own suitably prepared vocations.

[0282A-02.04][0282B-02.04] [CM05] [Original text: Castilian]


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 French, the Twentieth General Congregation opened for the conclusion of the presentation in the Hall of the work carried out by the Small Groups of the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops. The President Delegate on duty was H. Em. Card. Card. Roger Michael MAHONY, Archbishop of Los Angeles.


The Relations of the following Small Groups were presented:

Herein we publish the summaries of the Relations prepared by the Relators and Joint Relators, presented at the Twentieth General Congregation.

English B - Rev. P. John CORRIVEAU, O.F.M. Cap., Minister General of the Franciscan Order of Capuchin Friars - Relator

The potential for encounter with the living Christ lies preeminently in a Eucharistic encounter. Therefore, synodal reflections must be rooted in the life and celebration of the Eucharist.

The Relatio’s treatment of ecumenism is incomplete. The term "sect" applies only to those religious movements which do not share in baptismal communion.

The Synod should seriously address the cathechesis and practice of the Sacrament of Reconcilation.

The Synod must give serious attention to marriage, the family and respect for the sanctify of human life.

The document fails to distinguish properly between the Eastern Catholic Churches and other Churches not in full communion with the Holy See. Vatican II recognized the equality of the Eastern Catholic Churches. They exist, not because of union with Rome, but as an integral part of the entire communion.

The Relatio makes no mention of the role and dignity of woman as mother. A great many of the questions relating to the participation of women in the decision making process of the Church should be addressed in common with all of the laity including members of the consecrated life. Although women are not blameless in the present crisis facing sexuality, marriage and family life, it must be acknoledged that they have borne the brunt of the storm.

Youth are too often the victims of the problems of modern society. Along with those afflictions already listed in the Relatio, we add poverty and unemployment, negligence and sexual abuse -all of which create a lack of hope and purpose and render youth even more vulnerable to the abuse of drugs, alcohol and human sexuality. We require a pastoral ministry to youth beginning with their positive gifts for the church and society.

The Synod should make a separate statement on the pastoral care of children.

There is no mention in the Relatio of permanent deacons who make a significant contribution to the pastoral ministry of many local churches in America.

The Synod treatment should present the positive mission of seminaries in building communion, solidarity and zeal for the evangelization of our world.

The Synod should affirm the mission of Catholic schools, colleges and universities in the evangelization of persons and cultures.

The parish is the common basic ecclesial structure. We recognize the important of Basic Ecclesial Communities and ecclesial movements. It is necessary to describe with greater precision how they relate to parish and diocesan structures.

The Synod must devote attention and appreciation to priests and the priesthood as well as to memebers of Institutes of Consacrated Life.

We affirm the participation of the laity in the universal call to holiness and the specail vocation to evangelize the world, its temporal order, including its political and economic life.

Since the laity use their gifts and charism in the life of workship, catechesis, pastoral care and education we must promote their formation including specialized theological training. We request a study of the extent to which lay people can be involved in the formulation of Church policy.

We give particular attention to the needs of indigenous peoples with due recognition to their special relationship with the land. Local Churches must be conscientized to the many injustices and deprivations which they continue to suffer.

The Church recognises its unique realtionship with Jews because of the spiritual bond linking Christians (the people of the New Covenant) with Abraham’s stock. Muslims are also descendants of Abraham. We strive to develop mutual respect and good relation with Hindus and other faith bodies and especially native American religions.

The real burden of the international debt is seen in reduced educational and health care services and increased unemployment. Economic relief should first benefit the poor. We cannot ignore the reality of corruption both on the part of lending nations and institutions as well as receiving nations and officials. The debt question should be placed within a larger context of the evangelization of the economy as such. We request the Holy Father to establish a Panel of Experts to study and propose solutions flowing from Catholic social principles. This might also result in a Church document or encyclical on this theme.

Most people emigrate because of economic need. Therefore, the Synod should call for a more equitable distribution of resources and employment. Those who possession capital, technology or education in sending nations have an obligation to utilize these gifts for the development of their own peoples. Nations which receive immigrants have an obligation to follow the dictates of Deutoronomy that we welcome strangers among us as members of our family. A people without land have a right to a land without people.

[00277-02.03] [CM08] [Original text: English]

Castilian B - H. Exc. Most Rev. Felipe ARIZMENDI ESQUIVEL, Bishop of Tapachula - Relator


Christian holiness consists in being faithful to the call of grace, under the influence of the Holy Spirit. It means encountering and following Christ, on a personal and community basis, a process which, from the sacramental point of view, starts with Baptism, is perfected with Confirmation and culminates in the Eucharist. Holiness is a process in the fundamental response of faith, fulfilled in charity.

An educational process is required to increase holiness, to encourage the receipt of the sacraments, the celebration of the liturgy, and an adequate use of the Bible, the lives of the saints, the Catechism of the Catholic Church etc.

The best way to teach holiness is witnessing, especially for those who do not believe. Therefore "saints are the best evangelizers. Saintliness must be stressed in order to evangelize. A pastoral activity promoting sainthood is required.

We bishops must make an effort to be the first to be converted, the first witnesses of sainthood for our people. This involves renunciation, withdrawal, sacrifice, going further than we have ever gone, taking up the cross and following Christ.

The sainthood America needs is a revolution of love, as reflected in the dialogue of Our Lady of Guadalupe with Juan Diego.


1. Unity does not mean uniformity. Ecclesial communion is based on pluralism, within the unity of the doctrine of the faith, of liturgy, of morals and of canonical discipline.

2. The episcopal conferences should pursue unity in pastoral plans, and especially in their criteria. The Ecclesiastical Provinces should be given new life.

Each diocese should draw up pastoral guidelines which unite the local church in a communion of life and action and foster conversion through knowledge of the Word, liturgical celebration, participation in the sacraments and the service of charity.

The diocesan communion assumes that the bishops are near to their priests and the lay faithful in general, making the structures provided for by law to foster communion and participation fully effective.

The parishes are fundamental for the creation of ecclesial communion. We propose that they should be given new vitality as a pastoral priority, taking into account the basic ecclesial communities. Here, too, it is vital to have structures for participation such as the pastoral council, the council for economic affairs as well as subzones and deanaries to bring parishes closer together.

3. The family is the first occasion for communion. As a domestic Church and sanctuary of life, the family is the source for the transmission of basic moral values and the fundamentals of Christianity. The family and life are not just important aspects of the Church’s pastoral concern, but rather priority issues. At the diocesan and episcopal conference levels, attention should be given so that pastoral agencies exist to evangelize families and support Christian life among them.

4. In relation to communion, the ‘movements’, now numerous and active within the Church, should be taken into account. Their great evangelizing strength and capacity to prepare committed Christians is acknowledged; however, the communion aspect presents some problems which should be approached with ecclesial charity and a spirit of collaboration, taking into account joint pastoral activity.

5. The evangelization of the indigenous and Afro-American cultures has the aim of bringing these peoples, with their own cultural characteristics, into the great community of the Church. The topic of evangelization of these cultures needs to be dealt with urgently in order to avoid any deviation or syncretism.

6. The search for communion must open the local churches to their mission "ad gentes".

7. Particular attention should be paid to ecumenism in relation to non-Catholic Christian Churches. Nevertheless, the action of some Christian groups and sects which draw many Catholics away from the ecclesial communion - using methods which are often not very fraternal or Christian - should be a matter for concern. This fact also requires us to revise our pastoral methods and the quality of the Christian preparation which we give to the faithful.


1. We are grateful to all those evangelizers who, on different continents and on the American continent, have devoted and still devote their lives to following Jesus Christ, in proclaiming the Gospel and in service to their brethren in the various fields of evangelization.

2. All the evangelizers in America, especially bishops, priests and deacons, are called to follow the living Jesus Christ who serves, near to us and merciful, consecrated to proclaiming the Kingdom of God and the love of the Father, concerned with the needs of others, especially the poorest.

3. We bishops of America are committed to an intense experience of communion and solidarity as service based on the Gospel. The bishop is the center of unity in the local church, together with the Pope and the College of Bishops. This communion and solidarity is generated from every diocese, with the priest, religious and lay faithful, and extened to the Ecclesiastical Provinces, Episcopal Conferences and the international Church organizations on our continent.

4. We bishops are called upon to exercise special friendship, assistance and concern for the priests. The spirituality of the diocesan clergy should be fostered.

5. The preparation of future priests must be careful and profound. All the members of the local church are jointly responsible for the choice and training of future ministers, taking into account the human and Gospel virtues, and their cultural and native values.

6. The vocation and ministry of permanent deacons, as well as the religious life and the evangelizing action of the lay faithful, should all be encouraged. The presence and action of the lay faithful should be encouraged in politics, as a service to the common good, in national legislation, in all the fields of education, the family, the defense of life, the economy, the world of communications.

7. In America, youth represents the great hope as well as the great challenge of evangelization on the threshold of the third millennium.


The Church in America, committed above all to the poorest and the weak, wants to draw nearer to the excluded: the indigenous peoples, the Afro-Americans, immigrants, poor farmers, the illiterate, the terminally ill, the elderly, street children, the unemployed, destitute single mothers, people involved in drugs and alcohol.

We would like to call the attention of the authorities on the quantity and quality priorities of social expenditure in these sectors. We would also like to testify our solidarity with the needy - expressing the love of God - through the following pastoral actions:

a) To orient the attention of lay people who exercise leadership in society towards the promotion of the most marginalized people and to ensure that public life may aspire to the common good.

b) To acknowledge the injustice committed against the indigenous peoples and the former slave population in depriving them of their land and freedom, which has limited the development of their culture. Ways to compensate these prejudices should be taken into consideration.

c) We would like to draw attention to the problems of justice and international economic relationships, considering the huge inequality between the poor and rich countries. There will be no communion or solidarity if we ignore this gap. How can we reconcile this reality with the proclamation of our faith, which says that Jesus is everyone’s Savior and unifier of the family of God?

d) Although many believe this goal to be unreachable, we are called upon to lay out a plan for people in government, leaders of multinational organizations and world public opinion makers with significant initiatives which may, for our peoples, turn the Jubilee inaugurated by Jesus into concrete facts.

e) The Synod supports the plan of the Holy Father John Paul II for Jubilee action involving the total abolition or significant reduction of the foreign debt of poor countries.

f) This Synod, adopting what the Lord said to Cain: " ‘What have you done?’ Yahweh asked. ‘Listen! Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground’" (Gn 4:10), absolutely condemns:

a) Kidnapping and murder by terrorism of any type.

b) The illegal appropriation of public funds and the buying and selling of court sentences.

c) Active and tolerated drug trafficking.

d) The arms trade, especially when se see that this is a market in which the wealthy industrial countries make a profit at the expense of the poorest, putting human lives in jeopardy.

[00279-02.05] [CM09] [Original text: Castilian]

Castilian A - H. Exc. Most Rev. José María ARANCIBIA, Archbishop of Mendoza - Relator

Text not received prior to the deadline of this edition of the Bulletin.

Castilian F - H. Exc. Most Rev. Ramón Ovidio PÉREZ MORALES, Archbishop of Maracaibo - Relator

I. First of all, the Group reflected on the topics which appeared more frequently during the interventions of the Synodal Fathers and, at the same time, the topics which appeared very little or were not dealt with in-depth, and which are important for the New Evangelization of the Continent.

II. We appreciated the theme chosen for the Assembly, which turns on the central axis of the meeting with the living Jesus Christ. The importance of the word ‘meeting’, of long biblical tradition, which corresponds to a searching was underlined. For this reason it has been suggested to give it a separate and highlighted place in the general theme. They also noticed the convenience of highlighting the centrality of the mystery of Incarnation.

III. Reflecting on conversion found light in the biblical notion of ‘metanoia’, which was essential in order to formulate the reply God wanted from human beings, whose meeting place is in Jesus Christ: "Repent, and believe the Gospel" (Mk 1:15). This conversion has social and cultural consequences. It also emphasized that conversion is first of all reconciliation with God. Contemplating our continent at the same time as sanctity, shown in its daily forms (fidelity of the lay faithful to their commitment of life) and in more extraordinary forms (such as martyrdom), we discover sin in all its forms: corruption, violence, marginalization and exclusion of the poor, drug trafficking, unjust international relations, the crack in the ecological equilibrium, discrimination against women and the indigenous, ill treatment of immigrants, agnosticism, relativism, hedonism, consumerism, attempts against life and the family, dissemination of anti-values, etc.

IV. The pentecostal phenomenon of fraternal communion (Ac 2:42) was manifest also in this Synod of the Churches of America. Although there is a long synodal tradition at regional levels, this is the first time bishops met in a Synod at continental level with the goal of fostering a New Evangelization on the whole Continent as an expression of episcopal communion (IL, 1). It is necessary to continue with the services of communion which are in the different regions of the Continent, in particular CELAM. It would be very useful to have new ways and dialogue including cooperation among all the Churches of the Continent. It was agreed that the concept of communion (communio) had been considered as an articulating and englobing category. This gave rise to a fruitful exchange on the trinitarian foundation of communion and on the ecclesiology of communion. It was recalled that the Church is a sacrament of unity of the people with God and of people among themselves (LG, 1). Other related topics came up, such as reconciliation - the Church is presented as an organic and missionary communion.

A very special challenge which the ecclesial communion of America and the whole world must confront is the phenomenon called globalization. Sects, on their part, are also a challenge - a challenge which must be examined.

V. Faced with the negative effects of globalization, in particular, exclusion of the weakest, the Churches of the Continent rediscovered the power of solidarity, which is the result and consequence of communion. This is supported in faith in the provident God, who created the world for the whole of mankind. This is closely linked to justice, and is perfected in charity. Marginalization and exclusion of many social sectors and the amount of foreign debt - which cannot be supported by many people - challenge our Churches to renew the commitment with solidarity and the preferential love for the poor. The Church should promote a solidarity culture.

[00281-02.04] [CM11] [Original text: Castilian]

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

Text not received prior to the deadline of this edition of the Bulletin.

The summaries of the Relations presented in the Twentieth General Congregation this afternoon not received before the deadline for Bulletin N. 23 will be published in Bulletin N. 24, due to be issued on 3 December 1997.


At the conclusion of the Twentieth General Congregation, Fraternal Delegate Dr. Walter ALTMANN, Representative of the Evangelical Church of Lutheran Confession in Brazil, Latin American Council of Churches, intervened.

Herewith we give the summary of the intervention of the fraternal delegate.

Dr. Walter ALTMANN , Evangelical Church of Lutheran Confession in Brazil, Latin American Council of Churches

"I give you a new commandment: love one another; you must love one another just as I have loved you" (Jn 13:34).

There is difficulty along the way towards ecumenism. There are many internal resistances in all our Churches. There are theological differences. In addition, religious pluralism is also growing in Latin America, and often with aggressive connotations. We have been called to persevere in practicing the Gospel entrusting in the Holy Spirit without falling into the temptation of taking on discrimnatory behaviour.

In the meantime, many signs of ecumenical cooperation have already been showing their presence in Latin America: the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, studying the Bible, ecumenical prayer services, encouraged by movements of a social nature. Also the service of the diaconate is an indispensable part of ecumenical practice. For example: cooperation in the peace and defense processes for human dignity when faced with violations of human rights; denouncing sufferance caused to the Cuban people by the economic embargo; the call to cancel foreign debt of Third World Countries; commitment for a new international economic order where the human aspect predominates over the financial one.

Authentic ecumenism is a gift of God. As the Son and the Father are one, let’ s work to all be one so that the world may believe (Cfr Jn 17:21).

[00275-02.04] [DF004] [Original text: Portoguese]


The Twentieth General Congregation concluded at 7.00 p.m. with the prayer "Angelus Domini". There were 209 Fathers present.



The Twenty-first General Congregation will be held on the afternoon of Friday 5 December 1997, as stated in the calendar (published in Bulletin N.1).


In the next days the sessions of the Small Groups of the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops will continue according to the calendar (published in Bulletin N. 1), for the drawing up and approval by each Group of the draft texts for the Propositions.


The Bulletin N.25 will be published on Friday 5 December 1997 (available on the morning of 6 December 1997).


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