Message of the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops
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Message of the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops

1. At the threshold of the third millennium of Christianity, the members of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for America call out to all our brothers and sisters in America, and to all the world, the words which St Paul proclaimed at the beginning of the first millennium: «Jesus Christ is Lord!» (Phil 2:11).

3. Called from all the nations of America to gather with the Successor of Peter for this Special Synod, we are grateful to our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, for this opportunity of prayer, study and reflection. For indeed we have prayed together and listened to the stories of the wonders and the needs of the Church in this New World. It seems to us a special grace that the Holy Father has called this Synod under the title of the Special Assembly for America with the theme, «Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ: the Way to Conversion, Communion and Solidarity in America».

4. We believe that we are one community; and, although America comprises many nations, cultures and languages, there is so much that links us together and so many ways in which each of us affects the lives of our neighbours. This historic gathering of the Church in America at the Holy Father's invitation has impelled us to seek the answers to the problems and concerns of our lands, not in the service of one part of America or even the needs of another, but in calling forth the resources of both and becoming more conscious of the needs of each. This has been done over the weeks of the Synod, as we listened to the concerns and the hopes of our neighbours from all these lands. [...]

17. We reach out to you the young men and women who search for God in today's world, to you the young among the poor who are deprived of opportunity to earn a living and begin a family, to you the youth whose idealism has been so diminished by an excessive consumerism, and to all you young people who long for a sense of God's loving presence in your lives.

18. We turn with heavy hearts to the bitter hardships borne by you, the children of the streets. What you, the children of God, suffer, should happen to no one. Sometimes you may not even realize that you are abandoned, abused, exploited and entangled in a life of crime. Some of you are even living under the threat of murder by those who should shield you from harm. We call on people of goodwill to help rescue you from these dangers, so you many enjoy a secure and normal life and discover the presence of God's love.

19. To you, immigrants who find yourselves unwelcome in the lands where you have moved, we send words of encouragement. The Church has walked alongside generations of migrants in the march for a better life, and she will not cease to stand by you with every kind of service.

20. To you minorities who are victims of prejudice, we sympathize with the frustration you suffer on account of discrimination, the pain imposed on you by the hostility of others, and the abuse often inflicted on you by social institutions.

21. We call to mind you, the aboriginal and indigenous peoples of America, who have suffered so much these past five centuries at the hands of the greedy and violent, and who even today enjoy so little of the abundance our lands have produced.

22. We want to speak to you, our brothers and sisters of African heritage, whose ancestors came to America in bondage as slaves. The wounds of those terrible centuries of slavery still sting the soul. We pledge ourselves to continue to work with you so that you many enjoy your full dignity as children of God, and so that you may always feel welcome in our churches and communities of faith.

25. Indeed, of all the concerns of God's people that have resounded in the hall of the Special Synod for America, the cry of the poor has been heard with a special attention. Not a single Episcopal Conference in America has failed to speak clearly and with deep emotion about the quest for justice for our brothers and sisters whose lives and human dignity are challenged by poverty and want.

26. In the North, we look with dismay and alarm as the gap widens year by year between those who have an abundance and those who have only the barest of resources. Where material benefits are so widespread, many among us face the temptation of the rich man in the Gospel to become indifferent to the needs of those at our own doorstep (cf. Lk 16:19-31). We must be mindful of the First Letter of John: «If anyone has this world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart to him, how does God's love abide in him. Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and truth» (1 Jn 3:17-18).

27. In the South, there are regions which suffer conditions of such utter human misery that they cannot be reconciled with the dignity which God has bestowed equally on each of his children. In every part of America, there is need to protect innocent unborn children from the scourge of abortion. Even where wretchedness has not reached so great a depth, there are still to be found the sufferings of children who go to bed hungry, of mothers and fathers without work or sustenance, of indigenous peoples whose homelands and livelihoods are threatened, of thousands without jobs or shelter because of changing and volatile market conditions. To these woes must be added those caused by abuses in the globalization of the world's culture and economy, those caused by the drug traffic, the diversion of scarce resources into the arms trade, and political and business corruption which deprives people of the share of material goods intended for or earned by them and to which they have a right.

28. The burden of external and internal debt, which for many countries has been something from which there seems to be no prospect of relief, has been a considerable concern during the Synod. Even though the international debt is not the sole cause of poverty in many developing countries, it cannot be denied that it has contributed to creating conditions of extreme privation which constitute an urgent challenge to the conscience of humankind. Accordingly, we join the Holy Father in his appeal for the reduction or forgiveness of debts in an effort to give relief to the people of some of the world's poorest nations (cf. Tertio Millennio Adveniente, n. 51). Relief from debt will only begin to lift the burdens of the poor. Much more will have to be done to prevent the marginalization of whole countries and regions from the global economy. Any reduction of the debt must truly result in benefit to the poor. Measures must be taken to avoid the causes - whatever they may be - that created the debt.