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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


31 - 11.12.1997



The Twenty-fifth General Congregation of the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops, commenced today, Thursday, 11 December 1997, at 5:05pm, in the Synod Hall, with the "Prayer of the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops," in Castilian, for the vote on the final List of Propositions that will be consigned to the Holy Father, and for the closure of the Synodal works. President Delegate on duty: H. Em. Rev. Card. Roger Michael MAHONY, Archbishop of Los Angeles.


During the course of this General Congregation, the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, H. Em. Rev. Card. Jan P. SCHOTTE, C.I.C.M., delivered the following communications:


"Among the initiatives of the Episcopal Conferences of Peru and Bolivia is the publication of a Roman Missal.

His Eminence, Cardinal Augusto VARGAS ALZAMORA, S.J., has informed us that the two episcopal conferences have brought to successful completion the work of publishing in Aymara, the local language, the Roman Missal of the Second Vatican Council.

This missal, published in 1997, is presented as being an example of ‘inculturated liturgy’ with the declared purpose of fostering among the Aymara communities the fruitful celebration of the Eucharist. At the same time, it expresses the diversity in unity existing within the Church."


"The Holy Father's gift to the Synod Fathers is a silver bishop's ring, by the artist Floriano BODINI from Varese, depicting Jesus the Good Shepherd. The inside of the ring is engraved with the Holy Father's crest. The artist has an international reputation and has long been associated with Pope Paul VI, who commissioned various works. Some of his artistic work can be seen in the Vatican Museums. One of those pieces, a bust of Pope Paul VI, can be viewed in the Atrium of the Paul VI Audience Hall, where it is occupying a temporary place until it can be more appropriately displayed as a memorial to the Holy Father."


At the conclusion of the process of voting on the final List of Propositions, the members of the Commission for scrutiny of the ballot, met to proceed with the operations of the tally of the votes cast by the Synod Fathers.


Then, the President Delegate on duty, H. Em. Rev. Card. Roger Michael MAHONY, Archbishop of Los Angeles, pronounced the following words of gratitude to the Holy Father, at the conclusion of the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops.

We publish herein the text in its entirety:

Most Holy Father:

As the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on America draws to a close, I wish to express to you the collective gratitude of all the Synodal Fathers, the Auditors, the Observers, and all who have helped to make this Special Assembly such a spiritual and pastoral grace for the Church.

Holy Father, because of your call to convene this Special Assembly, I can assure you that the Church throughout the American Continent will have a deeper spiritual vitality, a new ecclesial unity, and a fresh pastoral harmony, that offer such great promise for the New Evangelization to which you, in the name of the Lord Jesus, have called us. For this, we are so grateful.

The many months of preparation, and these actual weeks of the Special Assembly, have been a profound experience of our encounter with the Living Jesus Christ, and through Him, a deeper experience of our ecclesial communion one with another. Holy Father, you have "strengthened your brothers" (Luke 22:32) after the example of Peter, and you have helped us learn how to listen to one another, to trust in the Holy Spirit working in our midst, and to greatly expand our understanding of the Church of Jesus Christ.

As a result, the Church across our American Continent has lost its sense of cultural borders and of ecclesial boundaries, and a new sense of collegiality and collaboration has emerged. As you told us at the Opening Mass for this Special Assembly [November 16, 1997], there really are not three Americas--there is only one America in the eyes of the Good Shepherd, whose redemption is poured forth so generously across this great Continent.

We are grateful, Holy Father, for the various processes and procedures of the Synod which have allowed us the graced time to listen to one another, to hear the stories and the cries of peoples in different moments of our various histories, and to understand more fully the pastoral challenges faced by us, the shepherds of today, called "to feed the lambs and the sheep" (John 21:15-17) of our Risen Savior's flock.

Listening to one another in the power of the Spirit brought about a cumulative effect within us and among us. Our isolation in distant countries began to disappear, and those many hours of being attentive to one another brought about a bonding and a harmony that was never our previous experience as brother Bishops in America. The Circuli Minori allowed the opportunity for a more focused and intensive channeling of our energies towards positive pastoral outcomes for the future. For this extraordinary time of grace, Holy Father, we are grateful to you.

Let me share one personal experience of a new ecclesial communion that most of you have experienced as well. Names of Local Churches that I never heard of before this Special Assembly I now place in prayer each day, such as, Jalapa [Guatemala], Tucamán [Argentina], Sherbrooke [Canada], Zipaquirá [Colombia], Huancayo [Peru], and Paramaribo [Antilles]. We will return to our respective Dioceses with a fuller sense of the Church across the length and the breadth of our Continent, and we take with us joyful memories, new friendships, weeks of intensive work, and hoped-for new pastoral collaboration that will carry us forward into the Third Christian Millennium. For being God's instrument to create these new fraternal and ecclesial bonds among us, Holy Father, we are all most grateful.

You have journeyed with us throughout these weeks of the Special Assembly, Holy Father, and you have inspired and encouraged us with your personal presence, your leading us in prayer, and your calling us to an ever deeper encounter with the Living Jesus Christ. We look forward to your Apostolic Synodal Exhortation, and to the even clearer direction you will set for us throughout America.

May Our Lady of Guadalupe, La Reina de America, surround you, Holy Father, with her strength and protection, and may she bring all of us through your pastoral leadership to that New Evangelization where all our peoples will encounter Her Son, the Living Jesus Christ.

[00289-02.01] [00000] [Original text: English]


At the conclusion of the Twenty-fifth General Congregation, Pope John Paul II pronounced the following concluding discourse:

(in French)

My Esteemed Cardinals,

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. We have come to the end of the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops. In this moment, my soul opens up, through the action of grace, towards God, who is at the origin "of all that is good, all that is perfect" (Jm 1:17). And I have an immense gratefulness for you who have been instruments of God in being part of the spiritual richness of His Church, on the occasion of this current Synodal Assembly.

My wholehearted thankfulness goes out to those Fathers, those primarily responsible for the Synod, who have carried their burden of work and who now have the merits of the results. Each day, the President Delegates have efficaciously conducted the Assembly; the Relator General and the two Special Secretaries have helped to treat the Synod theme with competence; the Secretary General has guided it with surety within the complex process of the Synod.

The Fraternal Delegates of certain, Christian confession from America, and a good number or men and women, having come in the capacity of Assistants and Auditors, have brought forth a concourse rich in meaning.

And how could one forget the Assembly, the different meetings of the pre-Synod Council, that has been prepared for through prayer, through reflection, and through the consultation of all the local Churches and of other organizations? The harmonious cooperation of numerous ecclesial constituents, likewise those of diverse organizations and services of the Apostolic See, have certainly contributed to the happy outcome of these proceedings.

Presently, we equally bear in mind the numerous persons who have accompanied the Synodal works through the offering of their suffering and by their continuing prayer. To all, and to each of you, goes my personal gratitude.

(in Spanish)

2. We have come to the end of this interesting ecclesial experience in which we have truly "walked together" (syn-odos). Today’s meeting offers us the opportunity of making an initial evaluation. Tomorrow morning, during the Eucharistic Celebration over which I will have the joy of presiding, in the Vatican Basilica, we will give thanks to the Lord for the apostolic fruits gathered over these weeks for the benefit of the American continent, from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

In the future, as is customary after every Synod, I intend to issue an Apostolic Exhortation which will take into account the Propositiones approved by the Assembly and expressing all the richness of the interventions and the various relations, in order to render efficacious the pastoral proposals expressed during the works of the Synod.

These days of grace, which we have spent together have been a true gift of the Lord. We have experienced a special encounter with the living Jesus Christ, and we have walked together along the path of conversion, communion and solidarity. We have felt united in the name of Jesus (cf. Mt 18:19-20) through the action of the Holy Spirit, who illuminates the present and the future of the American continent, with the joy of hope which never disappoints (cf. Rm 5:5). Through the numerous relations, which have recalled the grandeur and beauty of Christian vocation, we have all been encouraged to follow Christ the Pastor, Priest and Prophet, each one according to his or her own vocation.

The common call to follow Christ has made us understand the situations in which many of our brothers and sisters live. Many of them, in fact, find themselves in conditions contrary to the dignity of children of God: extreme poverty, lack of a minimum care in cases of illness; widespread illiteracy; exploitation; violence; and dependence on drugs. What can be said about the psychological pressure being inflicted on the population in industrialized societies, which impedes, in various ways, their access to the living source of the Gospel: a climate of mistrust towards the Church, anti-religious campaigns in social communications media; the harmful influence of permissiveness, fascination with easily obtained wealth which is based on illegal origins. Denunciation of these deplorable situations has appeared in many interventions of the Synod Fathers.

(in Portuguese)

3. However, together with these courageous denunciations, do not cease to highlight reasons for hope and comfort. An increasing number of young people have opted for the priestly and religious life, offering their dynamism and creativity for the task of the new evangelization. Many worthy priests and consecrated people, faithful to the charisma of their own institutions, are accompanying you in your apostolate, venerable Brothers. And how can we fail to remember the thousands of lay faithful who, responding to your call, have become your close collaborators in apostolic action? They cooperate in a wide variety of ways in the work of evangelization, especially within small communities of faithful as well as in the heart of the major cities, in the countryside, and in the far away towns, meet together to pray and listen to the Word of God.

There are also the lay faithful - men and women - who, on the path of their specific lay vocation, engage themselves in a competent way in the various political, economic and social sectors of life, so that the yeast of the Gospel could penetrate, in order to build a world which is more just, more fraternal and more united.. Their determined, irreplaceable action is an essential component of evangelization, which enables the worthy and explicit proclamation of Jesus Christ in a world increasingly in need of concrete actions rather than of words.

During this Synod, we have reflected together on the paths of new evangelization, in the search for answers on life, for reconciliation and peace which will be offered to the entire American continent. The rich experience of fraternity, so vivid in these weeks, must continue as a permanent witness of unity for a continent, in its various sectors, called upon for integration and solidarity. This is a pastoral priority in which everyone is called upon to offer their collaboration.

At various times in this Hall, it has been recalled how important it is to give not only that which is superfluous, but rather that which is necessary, as in the example of the widow cited in the Gospel (cf. Mk 12:42-44). If it is true that on the American continent, as elsewhere in the world, challenges are many and complex, and the tasks seem to exceed human energies, I repeat to each and every one of you here today: "Fear not! Before anything, base all your life upon the hope which never deceives."

(in English)

4. Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate, dear Brothers and Sisters! To the extent that my daily schedule permitted, I have had the pleasure of following the work of the Synod. I have been struck by a constant call which emerged from the interventions and the exchanges: I refer to the invitation to solidarity . Yes, solidarity must be prophetically encouraged and testified to in practice. Solidarity, by joining the efforts of each individual and all peoples, will help to overcome the harmful effects of certain situations forcefully brought to our attention during the Synod: a globalization which, despite possible benefits, has also produced forms of social injustice; the nightmare of some countries’ foreign debt , for which it is urgent to find adequate and equitable solutions; the scourge of unemployment due, at least in part, to imbalances existing between countries; the difficult challenges caused by immigration and human mobility , together with the sufferings which give rise to them.

The Synodal process has led us to experience how true are the words of the Psalm: "Ecce quam bonum et quam iucundum habitare fratres in unum" (Ps 133:1). Solidarity is born of fraternal love, which is the more effective the more it is rooted in divine charity.

May God grant, as the best fruit of the Synod, an increase of understanding and love between the peoples of America. I gladly recall that, as it has been observed, the opposite of love is not necessarily hatred; it can also be indifference, disinterest, or lack of concern. It is along the path of love that we wish to enter the new Millennium.

Dear friends, in a few days you will return to your particular Churches in order to join your brothers and sisters in faith in carrying on the work of this Synod. Bring them the Pope’s greetings and his embrace.

I continue to be near to you in prayer. I entrust you to God’s Providence and I invoke upon you the light and strength of the Holy Spirit . Together we have begun the year specially dedicated to him, another significant step leading to the celebration of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. The Spirit brings about our conversion and puts us in communion with our brothers and sisters. It is he who impels us to live the greatest of gifts: the Christian love which today is expressed in solidarity .

May Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Patroness of all America and the Star of the first and of the new evangelization, obtain for us the grace of experiencing and seeing increase the abundant fruits of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.

To all of you I impart my Blessing!

[00290-02.05] [00000] [Original text: plurilingual]


During this last General Congregation of the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops, which concluded at 6:00pm, with the prayer Angelus Domini, 215 Fathers were present.


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