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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


07 - 18.11.1997




Today at 5.00 p.m., in the presence of the Holy Father, the Fourth General Congregation continued its session, opening with the "Prayer for the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops". The Delegated President on Duty was H. Em. Cardinal Roger Michael HAHONY, Archbishop of Los Angeles.

At the beginning of the session the Secretary General explained the working procedures for the "Circuli Minores".

The following speeches were then given:

There follow the summaries of the speeches:

H. Exc. Rev. Msgr. Jorge Enrique JIMÉNEZ CARVAJAL, C.I.M., Bishop of Zipaquirá

The prophetic vision of Pope John Paul II has joined us together in this Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in order to listen, to observe,, to pray and dream about the American continent. Can we build the future together or will the Synod just be a significant point on the path to be followed by each one of us separately?

Christian faith characterizes our societies and not only our Church. There are common interests throughout the Americas: the migratory flow, the community of prayer and action, the market economy, the cry of the poor. Objectively speaking, we live in different situations, sometimes complementary and sometimes conflicting.

Do we have a common vocation? Will we be called to build together an America characterized by solidarity as a sign of new times? Or will we be isolated, competing against one another?

The vision of the future we have about the world could affirm that America is a forerunner of the Third Millennium and not only the dream of Bolivar and the other historical founders of our nations. In any case, to achieve this project we need to place it in the biblical perspective of construction.

Participation in this Synod for America strengthens us in an American ecclesial awareness, which is expressed as a commitment to solidarity, within and beyond the churches, in order to present society with the challenge and the task to build up an American reality from the many countries of the continent, based on fraternity which is created by the wealth of diversity placed at the service of the community.

Concretely, I would like to propose the creation of an inter-American Episcopal council. Without creating another ecclesial structure, we could take advantage of an annual meeting which has been taking place for 20 years in the context of the existing Episcopal Conferences of Canada, the United States and Latin America with the explicit aim of fostering the implementation of pastoral initiatives which involve the various countries of America.

This could enable us to undertake pastoral activities on a Pan-American scale. Initiatives could include the consideration of sending Latin American and Caribbean priests for pastoral duties with the Hispanic people in Canada and the United States; the expansion of possible twinning of diocese in North, Central and South America; facing together the challenges of the political, economic and cultural world, the ethical and emotional responses of our societies; he overcoming of poverty which continues to trouble the American Christian conscience, and so on.

[00045-02.04] [00033] [Original text: Castilian]

H. Exc. Rev. Msgr. Marcel André GERVAIS, Archbishop of Ottawa

Canada’s missionary experience in Latin America enriched the Canadian Church in several significant ways: 1) It deepened our understanding of the Church, teaching us that every diocese is called to universal service. For religious communities, the preferential option for the poor often meant a rediscovery of their founder’s charism. 2) It led Canadian Catholics to appreciate the missionary dimension of their own baptism. 3) It strengthened personal and community faith. The missionaries learned to find the Lord where He was already present and to trust in Providence. They discovered how the Word of God, in the hands of ordinary people, welded faith and life together. 4) It led to a renewal of pastoral service: sacramental initiation, family catechesis, priestly formation, lay participation, and the creation of new ministries and small basic communities. 5) It affirmed our human and evangelical values: solidarity, gratitude and hospitality. 6) It strengthened our commitment to social justice. In the face of extreme poverty, oppression and injustice, our missionaries became more aware of the responsibilities of industrialized nations, often becoming the voice of the oppressed, drawing attention to the poor and the marginalized. Because we were not trained missionaries, we no doubt made mistakes, but we want to thank our sister churches in Latin America for giving us the opportunity to serve and to learn.

[00046-02.03] [00034] [Original text: English]

H. Exc. Rev. Msgr. Mario del Valle MORONTA RODRÍGUEZ, Bishop of Los Teques

We have to act decisively in the face of the problem of poverty and the impoverishment of the majority of our people. Not doing this would prevent our society from properly achieving the encounter with Jesus Christ. The consequences of poverty are terrible. The gap between rich and poor at all levels is growing; there are economic cuts deriving from individualist ideologies like neo-liberalism. In this situation, the Church, when undertaking the new evangelization, must highlight the role of the poor as being responsible for their own development. At the same time the Church must not be afraid to decisively ask everyone working in the economic field, especially if they are Catholics, in government and in international institutions, to respect the social doctrine of the Church and the principles of the Gospel. Conversion of the whole of society is needed, and there must be preferential treatment for the poorest of the poor. The call made by John Paul II is as valid as ever: The poor cannot wait! This is a modern paraphrase of what Jesus said in the Gospel: "What you have done to the least of these, you have done to me."

[00047-02.04] [00035] [Original text: Castilian]

H. Em. Card. Luis APONTE MARTÍNEZ, Archbishop of San Juan de Puerto Rico

According to the message of the Holy Father to the 7th Ibero-American meeting, the Synod should insist on the creation of real democracies.

This requires integral development which promotes all men and all of mankind.

It also requires solidarity and justice.

Let us speak out not as experts, but rather as Pastors of the American continent.

[00048-02.03] [00036] [Original text: Castilian]

H. Exc. Rev. Msgr. Patricio INFANTE ALFONSO, Archbishop of Antofagasta

Looking at the religious life of the Church and the Latin American people, we can see wonderful signs of evangelical life and fruitfulness, but there are also many difficulties which taken together are overwhelming us and could foster defensive attitudes or even aggressive confrontation amongst us.

We cannot concentrate all our efforts in listing the range of problems affecting the Church and our peoples - the solution of which does not really depend on our personal or institutional psychological attitudes - nor can we try to analyze the whole range of human knowledge.

Our main concern should never be what others do or fail to do, but rather what we ourselves do to give a response in faith to the gift we have received from Jesus Christ. This response will always consist in a relationship which we should build up at the various times and situations in our history, starting from listening to the Word of God which spurs us on to respond with renewed ardor, with new methods and new evangelizing achievements.

In the face of the temptation to determine on our own the basic options of our mission- which would mean a "pastoral of activities" - the call in the Gospel to "first of all seek the Kingdom of God and His justice" means going decisively into the "Pastoral of Faith" which requires our own conversion and a coherent witness in life.

[00049-02.04] [00037] [Original text: Castilian]

H. Exc. Rev. Msgr. Alcides Jorge Pedro CASARETTO, Bishop of San Isidro

The Church in America must work with the media so that the different American cultures can integrate into a dialogue with the Gospel and other cultures.

The Church will have to work through the media, trying to globalize communion and solidarity, by strengthening social inclusion of the poorest, by forming communicators with profound evangelical meaning and developing a profound critical sense in people, families and communities.

The Church on the Continent must develop real Pastoral Work of Communication, which can give evangelizing answers to the new challenges of our time.

The Church in America shall guarantee initiatives of communion through Her own media so that they can reflect the Gospel and be signs of Communion.

The Church has a great deal to learn about the world of communication. The language and its codes can help the Church considerably with regard to transparency and ability to achieve an efficient evangelical dialogue with the world.

The excessive secrecy with which the Church has lived certain themes has made Her be judged negatively by the media. Acceptance of ecclesial public opinion and integration of the differences considered in the light of an evangelical spirit can be of great benefit for evangelizing action.

The Church must plan a discussion of ethics and communication, first of all by living Herself in an exemplary way the communion of Her members and improving Her ability to hold a dialogue with people and cultures.

[00050-02.04] [00038] [Original text: Castilian]

H. Exc. Rev. Msgr. Ignacio Antonio VELASCO GARCÍA, S.D.B., Archbishop of Caracas, Santiago de Venezuela

Blessed be the Lord, Father of all Gifts, who made it possible for the Church founded by Jesus Christ 2000 years ago and present on the American Continent to meet through Her representatives at the Synod. Although this is about the Church of the American Continent, it is a reflection of the Church on Herself, on being and on the Church's action.

There are two parts in this reflection. The first one is given by the full, relevant and effective presence of Jesus our Lord. He is the living Gospel. St. Mark told us this at the beginning of his Gospel: "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is close at hand" (Mk 1:15). Hence the evident presence of Jesus. The second one to be taken into account is that the Church must be our fulcrum. She is the work of Jesus and therefore always needs the person of the Son of God incarnate, that is Jesus Christ the Redeemer. St. Mark also said "Repent, and believe the Gospel" (Mk 1:15)

The conversion we are talking about implies deep change of mind and heart due to meeting Jesus Christ: let’s us propose that this end of the millennium may be a time for new evangelization.

New evangelization means that we all, pastors and people must take on a new attitude with regard to the message of Jesus Christ and produce new expressions in our life and in our testimony. It is a joyful conversion, based on prodigious signs through which the Lord has been speaking to us in recent times.

The call to conversion is first of all a call to greater centralization in the evangelizing mission.

We must convert for unity of all the churches in love and solidarity.

In a world which tends towards a more and more growing globalization of poverty on the whole continent, let’s love the poor no matter what type of poverty oppressed them.

The first sign of authentic evangelization cannot occur without this attitude of love towards the poor. This is the first sign of the advent of the Kingdom of God: "to bring the good news to the afflicted" (Lk 4:18).

Conversion demands that we do not only proclaim love for the poor but also organize our structures for evangelization, for pastoral work and solidarity.

We are called to conversion and communion. This is shown through attitudes, organizations and concrete actions.

And the communion to which we are called must have very concrete objectives.According to Jesus the only objective is mankind in general and in particular the afflicted, the marginalized and the needy. I think it is clear to all of us that it is not only a matter of asking for charity in material goods from rich countries. No, poverty and scarcity of different nature are present on the whole Continent. From a Christian standpoint, we all have something to give.

[00051-02.04] [00039] [Original text: Castilian]

H. Em. Card. Anthony Joseph BEVILACQUA, Archbishop of Philadelphia

The purpose of my intervention is to suggest how the ecclesiology of communion can help us respond together to five major challenges, which, despite cultural and social differences, are common to the Church in both Latin and North America. Consensus of 17 Philadelphia missioners in Latin America list the five challenges as: 1) Non-Catholic sects; 2) marriage and family; 3) drug abuse; 4) inadequate religious education; 5) poverty. The ecclesiology of communion calls for the Bishops of both hemispheres to address these challenges through collaborative action.

The need for collaboration is made more urgent by increased emigration from Latin America and the consequent growth of the Hispanic population in the North. For example, by 2030, Hispanics will contribute 60% of the population growth in the U.S. and by 2050 will reach 88,000,000 or 23% of the population. Other factors urging the collaboration are the enormous homogenizing power of mass media and the North American experience of immigrants being introduced to secular values, which often undermine the practice of their Catholic faith.

To express the communion among bishops in addressing the five challenges, I would suggest, as an initiative, the formation of several joint commissions of Bishops from both hemispheres, each commission addressing one of the specific challenges. Each commission would strive to 1) identify the elements of the issue common to both Churches; 2) recommend how the Bishops can approach these challenges in a concerted manner. Such joint commissions would foster the ecclesial communion which sustains our episcopal collegiality and become suitable forums in which we address together problems that seem almost intractable when we try to address them in isolation from one another.

[00052-02.04] [00040] [Original text: English]

H. Exc. Rev. Msgr. Daniel Edward PILARCZYK, Archbishop of Cincinnati

The intervention calls for appropriate attention to ecclesial lay ministry to be given in the Synod’s deliberations.

Such attention should include gratitude for the service provided to the Church by lay ministers and clarity about the nature of ecclesial lay ministry.

[00053-02.03] [00041] [Original text: English]

H. Exc. Rev. Msgr. Alfonso CABEZAS ARISTIZÁBAL, C.M., Bishop of Villavicencio

In a good many churches which have already experienced the phase of first evangelization, there have been a number of new, different experiences in spiritual life which must be monitored and appraised by the hierarchy in a collegial manner.

The Holy Spirit is guiding many people in small groups and communities within the Church, active and dynamic, so that they may create an environment enabling people to live more fully the encounter with Jesus Christ. In these small communities there can be a variety of responses to a single encounter with Him, in a world increasingly open to a variety of options.

I would like to stress the need in each diocese to open up to this variety of community gifts and charisma engendered by the Holy Spirit.

It would be useful to urge all the diocese to assist these new groups and communities in order to integrate them into the ordinary pastoral process and in the context of the new evangelization.

In some of our churches there are extraordinary manifestations of God with signs of spiritual, physical and community healing, visions, interior dialogue and apparitions which are inexplicable according to the ordinary rational criteria of our usual pastoral process. It could be a suitable occasion to assist and promote processes of new evangelization, overcoming our natural fear of mistakes in the face of phenomena which we cannot control, but at least follow and orient in accordance with tradition.

Here we come to the challenge of the Christian and non-Christian sects which exploit these phenomena, which are spiritual realities for people; far from guiding them and making them beneficial, they utilize them for their own sectarian purposes. The dioceses should train people to monitor, explain and correct these experiences which, when approached in a proper way, can become occasions for new evangelization.

In this context, shouldn’t we work more on the theology of created things as a way to approach the supernatural? Couldn’t we consider water, oil, salt, lights, the so-called sacramental objects as a means towards the perfection of the sacraments? So many of the baptized faithful seem to be concerned with these factors that it does not seem advisable, from a pastoral viewpoint, to deny or just ignore them, since their value should be rediscovered on the theological level and assisted by the experience of faith.

In this respect we observe the esoteric and New Age groups which instead of helping our Catholic brethren disorient them even more, inducing them to lose their already weakened faith.

It would be useful to create inter-diocesan groups for theological and pastoral study in order to help these people and groups who respond to the language of symbols - in themselves created elements - and which, when properly managed, can provide many people with a path to approach and encounter the living Jesus Christ, a beginning of conversion, communication and solidarity.

It is not just a matter of naive, uncritical support for these spiritual experiences, but rather of searching for ways - not always easy - to develop criteria and methodologies suited to these phenomena, which are old and new at the same time, avoiding negative attitudes, simplistic rejection and misconception due to lack of interest.

[00054-02.04] [00042] [Original text: Castilian]

H. Exc. Rev. Msgr. Javier LOZANO BARRAGÁN, Archbishop-Bishop Emeritus of Zacatecas and President of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health-Care Workers.

For over 500 years the Church in America was concerned about the health of the afflicted and defenseless in particular. As a new evangelization and a sign of ecclesial communion, it would be opportune to:

- make pastoral work for health a part of the ordinary planning of the dioceses and parishes;

- encourage the union of hospitals, chaplains, medical doctors, nurses and Catholic pharmacists;

- increase the struggle against smoking, alcohol, drugs, aids and respect for life;

- increase pastoral work for the elderly and the struggle against euthanasia;

- encourage the best equipped Catholic hospitals to create hospitals in the most needy regions;

- establish communion of goods among Christians in the health economy;

- teach health pastoral work in seminaries, insisting on problems regarding bioethics.

[00055-02.04] [00043] [Original text: Castilian]

H. Exc. Rev. Msgr. Juan Francisco SARASTI JARAMILLO, C.I.M., Archbishop of Ibagué

The development of new means of communication and their diffusion on a massive scale are some of the most significant phenomena of this century. They utilize new technology, create a new language and generate a new mental attitude, greater openness and, in the end, a new culture. With regard to this phenomenon, the Church is both stimulated and questioned. She must be aware of the quality of communication, her activities regarding the media and the use of new technology. She is called upon to evangelize this new culture and must take into account the new type of person molded by the media. The Christian presence in the media is a typical field for the lay faithful and must be stimulated and guided by Pastors. The formation of a critical insight is especially urgent.

The high costs implied in media use mean that North-South collaboration between the American churches is required in this matter. The evangelization of the Church should be expanded in and through the media. Communication between the churches and community services should likewise be undertaken through the media.

The Church should defend human dignity when the media become channels for negative social, ethical, moral or religious values. She should also report the inroads of cultural neo-colonialism based on economic monopolies. With the proper use of the media, the Church will be able to face the challenge of new evangelization, as well as the campaign against the faith in Latin America; she will also be able to contribute to the social transformation of the continent in accordance with the social doctrine of the Church. The modern media should serve for the encounter with the living Jesus Christ and to foster conversion, solidarity and above all the communion of mankind.

[00056-02.04] [00044] [Original text: Castilian]

H. Exc. Rev. Msgr. Pedro RUBIANO SÁENZ, Archbishop of Bogotá

The common good is equivalent to the common effort to seek a way to satisfy the needs of the weakest in society.

Solidarity unites, whereas selfishness (only being concerned with one’s own interests) divides mankind and breaks up communities. Solidarity is a choice of life to be undertaken for the common good until we all become really responsible for everybody.

This is the message of the Church in America: build a solid America.

We do not need to ask ourselves which steps society has to take to make so many different people form a united America, but let’s rather try to discern what we, as the Church in America, can achieve.

Our proposal is to serve.

We must take on our episcopal responsibility and be open to the needs of the Church in America by being sincerely open to fellowship with dioceses and cooperating with regard to sending pastoral operators. The most serious problem is not so much the lack of vocations to the priesthood as the imbalance in their distribution.

We must form this American ecclesial awareness in our seminaries and in permanent formation of pastoral operators and the lay faithful.

As the Church in Latin America and in the Caribbean, we must take on the commitment with the North American Church to regularly send priests for a certain time to accompany from a pastoral standpoint the Latin Americans who live in the United States and Canada.

We should privilege the preoccupation for the marginalized and those excluded from society within our episcopal service.

If we bishops give the example of a Church showing concern as pastors for our countries and for all the countries in America, our message - that power exists to serve our neighbor, in particular the most afflicted since every form of power is a service for the common good - will have more impact, when conveyed to politicians, economists, heads of governments and all those in public authority.

[00057-02.04] [00045] [Original text: Castilian]


This General Congregation concluded at 5.00 p.m. with the prayer "Angelus Domini". There were 221 Fathers present.


Tomorrow the "Circuli Minores" will commence their sessions for the presentation of the Moderators and the debate on the theme of the Special Assembly.

The Fifth Congregation will be held tomorrow afternoon.


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