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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


10 - 20.11.1997




The Seventh General Congregation commenced this afternoon at 5:10pm, in the Synod Hall, in the presence of the Holy Father, with the prayer of the Synod of Bishops Special Assembly for America, for the continuation of the debate on the Synodal theme. President Delegate on duty: H. Em.Rev. Card. Eugênio DE ARAÚJO SALES, Archbishop of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro.

The following Fathers intervened:

Herein follow the summaries of the interventions:

H. Exc. Rev. Dom Angélico SÂNDALO BERNARDINO , Titular Bishop of Tambee and Auxiliary Bishop of Sâo Paulo

I would like to share with my brethren some joys, worries and questions concerning our ministry. In Brazil, we are satisfied with the increase in diocesan priests from 5,000 to 8,000 over the past 20 year. The clergy is getting younger, more Brazilian and more diocesan. However, this increase has not been enough to compensate for the crisis in the years 1969-75 and to match the rise in the population (now 158 million, of whom 80% are Catholic ). This means one priest for every 10,.000 inhabitants. In the 8,000 parishes, generally immense, there is just one parish priest for 20,000 people. The fathers are overloaded, under stress and lack time to take care of their physical and spiritual health. This worrying situation is alleviated by the major, generous collaboration of the lay faithful in the apostolate. It is estimated that for each priest there are 75 pastoral agents (catechists, community animators, extraordinary eucharistic ministers etc.).

Religious women make an important pastoral contribution. The number of deacons is still small. Just 15% of Catholics are able to partake in Sunday Communion. There are over 3 million Catholics who celebrate the Sunday liturgy led by lay faithful. Access to confession and Extreme Unction is not east. How can we solve these problems before the situation gets worse? How can the Synod help provide a creative solution to the problem of ordained ministers and their collaborators?

[00088-02.04] [00076] [Original text: Portoguese]

H. Exc. Rev. Msgr. José Luis LACUNZA MAESTROJUÁN , O.A.R., Bishop of Chitré

Ecumenism is an irreversible option and action which is natural to Christian faith. However, considering the lack of formation and the presence of the so-called sects, ecumenism is lived in a different way in the official declarations and in pastoral life.

On the one hand, in Latin America the fact that most of them are Catholic has made ecumenism to be considered as unnecessary, superfluous, an issue for experts and even as a sign of weakness. On the other hand, the aggressive and proselatizing presence of so-called sects has generated confusion, suspicion and defensive attitudes which have sometimes caused a sort of prejudice against ecumenical dialogue.

Therefore, we should take into account three aspects:

1) Ecumenical formation: this urgently requires the formation of skilled personnel at all levels in view of ecumenical dialogue, since, apart from some exceptions, in our Churches there is nobody who can serve as a counterpart or animator in the ecumenical dialogue;

2) ecumenism without ambiguity: it is important to report and overcome conflict which arises in many countries in Latin America due to the attitude of the members of some Historical Churches who make themselves out to be Catholics;

3) Ecumenical attitudes: ecumenism cannot only be reached through statements, but also through gesture and, in the light of getting closer and seeking dialogue with the so called sects, it is worth reviewing the use of the term "sect", which many consider in a negative sense.

[00089-02.04] [00077] [Original text: Castilian]

H. Em. Rev. Card. Paul POUPARD , President of the Pontifical Council for Culture

Evangelizing man also implies evangelizing culture

The mystery of Jesus Christ is good news for mankind and his culture in the cultural context of America.

1. The fundamental mission of the Church is to evangelize, fulfill the desire of the heart of man in search of God until finding in Him his fullness for life and joy.

2. Evangelizing man also means evangelizing his culture - this culture which is the special way by which mankind - in a given peoples - cultivates its relationship with nature, with other human beings and with God in view of reaching a truly and fully human level. The Holy Father always underlined the dual wealth of cultures of peoples in the whole of America: their great diversity and at the same time their common impregnation of evangelical values. All the peoples of America can recognize in Christ the archetype of the ideal of life, and in the Virgin Mary, "the star of the first and new evangelization".

3. New evangelization gets attached to the common Christian root present in the different cultures. It animates the experience of Christians and calls those who live far from the Church. Evangelizing cultures implies proposing models of life inspired by the Beatitudes, transforming society from within by causing an upheaval to the judgment criteria and specific values by the power of the Gospel.

4. The Gospel is not an extra culture in the super well-patronized market of liberal pluralism. Proclaiming the Gospel in its integrity is for the Church a matter of fidelity to God and to man. This is the Christian novelty which gives its soul to the cultures of all peoples in the new world, cements their communion and arouse their solidarity.

5. Globalization of culture causes impoverishment which cuts away man from his roots depriving him from his vital relationship with God. Conversely, the miracle of Pentecost made the restrictions of cultures disappear and opened them all up to the fullness of Love.

6. The Church brings a real answer to the paradoxical search for new spirituality aroused by that emptiness of prevailing hedonistic materialistic culture: integral development of the person only finds its full accomplishment in salvation in Jesus Christ.

7. Inculturation of faith and evangelization of cultures go at the same pace.

8. The Church does not cease to take into account the hope which is in Her (1P 3:15). Sharing hope is stating that the center of the faith in Christ is always the living Christ in order to build an authentic civilization of the truth and love.

9. The Church respects the diversity and plurality of cultures so that it can better enrich them. The evangelization of cultures and the inculturation of faith is achieved in the local churches in communion with the Universal Church. Evangelizing a culture does not mean lacking respect, but rather witnessing a greater respect in invoking it, in the name of Christ, to its full flourishing.

[00123-02.04] [00112] [Original text: French]

H. Exc. Rev. Msgr. Diego Rafael PADRÓN SÁNCHEZ , Bishop of Maturín

In our time, as in the early centuries of Christianity, solidarity between the churches of America will be the fulcrum of authenticity of new evangelization as well as the expression of the respect for the dignity of the individual and the Christian vocation in following Christ. (Cf. Instrumentum laboris, N. 53).

The proclamation of salvation becomes more credible to non-believers when the Church adds concrete acts of solidarity to her preaching. For example, there should be greater diocesan, , national and continental effort in social-charitable pastoral work with an all out commitment to the poor. Integration of the churches in reciprocal pastoral service should have an evangelizing effect, helping, for example, to highlight the urgent need for integration among the Latin American countries. It is exemplary and encouraging that the continent’s most developed churches are helping in the creation of seminaries, university and other specialized centers for training priests, pastoral and lay agents in the less developed churches, as Spain and other European countries have done in the Third World. This help is a feature of the basic Christian missionary concept. CELAM testifies to this cooperation between the churches.

Latin America feels that it cannot celebrate the Jubilee of the year 2000 with the necessary joy while the international organizations fail to redeem or reduce the weight of the foreign debt. The Synodal Assembly has a very important message in this respect.

[00090-02.04] [00078] [Original text: Castilian]

H. Em. Rev. Card. Joseph RATZINGER , Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

The main theme of our Synod is the encounter with Christ - an encounter which becomes conversion, in other words, the transformation of our thought, our will, our hearts. This conversion, which is the transformation from the "I" into the "You" of Christ, engenders communion, the collective "We" of people who have gone beyond their own self to become one with the "You" of the Lord. This profound communion - "I no longer live, Christ lives in me" - is the basis of solidarity in everyday life. Therefore, speaking about Christ is not an escape from the hard reality of the major economic, political and social problems into a purely interior world; it is, rather, true realism which goes to the roots of our problems. A renewed Christological catechesis, the heart of evangelization, should therefore be the primary, fundamental fruit of the Synod.

[00140-02.04] [00132] [Original text: Italian]

H. Exc. Rev. Msgr. Fernando Claudio GAMALERO GONZÁLEZ , Bishop of Escuintla

In the Lineamenta of the Instrumentum Laboris, the theme of young people and their problems have not been dealt with; they simply do not exist. Young people are in the majority in Latin America and they have to face a very difficult future. This means that we have to take a strong decision to give them our firm, decisive support.

There is no excuse for the exclusion and marginalization of young people in our societies, and we have a proposal in this regard. We are all very aware of the large number of young people who emigrate to the northern countries from Central America and Mexico. Poverty obliges them to emigrate and to deal with innumerable difficulties.

One of the most worrying factors for our churches is that most young people, when reaching their destination, remain on the margins of their own culture and absorb the novelties they encounter. They suffer from a serious loss of cultural roots, and even worse, from a loss of their faith. This is worrying since when they lose their faith they lose the very basis of life, their moral and ethical values.

We propose the following: create an opportunity for permanent dialogue at the episcopal level, integrated by the bishops responsible for pastoral work among the young of all the countries in Mexico, Central America, the United States and Canada; this should provide a chance to become familiar with the problems of young people in the local churches who emigrate to the United States and Canada, and to try to solve these problems. There should be contacts with all the churches so that young Catholics who emigrate will find an ecclesial welcome by the pastoral workers dealing with young people in the parish where they settle. There, they will encounter the Living Christ on the path towards conversion, communion and solidarity, thus enriching the local church which receives them.

[00091-02.04] [00079] [Original text: Castilian]

H. Exc. Rev. Msgr. José Mario RUIZ NAVAS , Archbishop of Portoviejo

On the whole the Parish of today is not a community with interpersonal relations. Only the Pastor and the few baptized members who assist him can fulfill their responsibility of providing the gifts received. In order to see that the Parish becomes the place of encounter between Christ and our brethren we must put into practice the commitment undertaken in Medellin, Puebla and Santo Domingo, of converting the Parish into a community of small communities and movements. In this way the Pastor becomes a stimulator of the lay leaders and a catechist of the catechists so that all those baptized - adults and children - can become living and responsible members.

[00092-02.05] [00080] [Original text: Castilian]

H. Exc. Rev. Msgr. Julio Edgar CABRERA OVALLE , Bishop of Santa Cruz del Quiché

I should like to propose that this Synod vitalize and foster community centers in the parishes of America. These small but lively Christian communities could have a personal and community experience of faith in Jesus who died and rose again, and where believers can experience the strength of His Spirit, take sustenance from the word of God and prayer, be at one in spirit with His pastors and practice a new way of life, a new way of living together and sharing. I also hope this will prove one of the most effective actions for halting the violent outbreak of sects, for personalizing the larger parishes and bringing fresh life to the big urban centers and their outlying areas. Among the specific objectives of its Global Plan for 1997-2000 the Episcopal Conference of Guatemala proposes to promote lively, participatory and evangelizing communities which are able to give a new impulse to parish life and promote the Kingdom of God. There will be no evangelization in America, no experience of Church communion, no space for solidarity unless there is renewal of the Church through its communities. One of the fruits of this Synod will be to assimilate the wealth of the communities of America which, given their cultural wealth, share their faith, their hope and their love.

[00093-02.05] [00081] [Original text: Castilian]

H. Em. Rev. Card. Francis ARINZE , President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue

While contact with other believers in America is part of the evangelizing mission of the Church, care should be taken not to be involved in religious relativism, the error of putting all the religions on the same level.

With reference to the Indigenous and the Afro-American religions, may I mention a 1993 Circular Letter of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue to the Bishops concerned. The Letter urges pastoral attention to these religions by way of study, so that the road to healthy inculturation may become clearer.

Christians when they meet with Muslims in America, should urge the Muslims to seek to convince their coreligionists in many Arab countries to give Christians and other believers as much religious freedom as Muslims enjoy in America, especially the U.S.A. and Canada.

It would also be important that Jews, Christians and Muslims in the U.S.A. and Canada raise their voices in favour of justice and peace in the Middle-East, with particular reference to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The attraction which some Christians in America find in Oriental Religions sometimes takes the form of interest in meditation, asceticism, mysticism and yoga, this is an indirect way in which Catholics are calling on their bishops, priests, and religious men and women to initiate them more and more into the riches of Christian meditation, prayer, contemplation, asceticism and mysticism.

[00094-02.02] [00082] [Original text: English]

H. Exc. Rev. Dom Raymundo DAMASCENO ASSIS , Titular Bishop of Novapietra and Auxiliary Bishop of Brasilia

1. In the inaugural discourse of the Fourth Conference of the Latin-American Episcopate and in the Apostolic Letter, "Tertio millennio adveniente," the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II has proposed among the themes for discussion in the Synod of Bishops Special Assembly for America, "the problem of justice and of international economic rapport, taking account of the enormous inequality which exists between the North and the South".

In facing this theme, one does so of course, from the ethical-religious viewpoint, without ignoring in any way its complexity from the technical-political viewpoint.

2. The Bishops of the United States of America, in an important Pastoral Letter entitled "Economic Justice for All," have fully treated the theme and have proposed some ethical principles which were necessary to be put forward for the creation of a world economic order in grade to guarantee the rights of all, above all, of the poor. Among these principles, it is worth underlining the following: "to create a world order in which human rights are guaranteed for all," "people have the right to participate in the world economy in a manner which guarantees their freedom and their dignity"; "the principal objective of international politics having to be to satisfy the fundamental needs of millions of poor and hungry persons in the world; the preferential option for the poor must have central priority in political choices".

3. The Instrumentum Laboris, in number 60, signals the painful, diverse situations lived by so many of the people of Latin-America in economic, social, cultural and religious sectors.

These problems hit hard so many people of Latin-America and destroy the social fabric of many communities, wounding their dignity, their rights, and putting in danger even their survival.

4. The Social Doctrine of the Church offers the principles capable of illuminating concrete action for individuals and for communities in order to promote the common good, overcome moral disorder and social injustice, and to put into act human and Christian solidarity.

5. I place before the attention of this Synodal Assembly some proposals that can contribute profoundly to solidarity between the North and the South:

(1) Manifest our gratitude and support of the Organizations of the Catholic Church operating outside the continent, above all in Europe, but also those of the Catholic Church in the United States of America and in Canada, for the joint and fraternal collaboration with the works of social promotion and evangelical action of the Church in Latin-America.

(2) Promote and sustain in our individual Churches the development of courses of Christian formation for citizens, in the light of the Social Doctrine of the Church, for the growth of civic awareness of the people, in a united perspective, and form political guides that could exercise their functions in service to the common good.

(3) In conformation with the appeal of Pope John Paul II, in the Apostolic Letter "Tertio millennio adveniente," investigate the ethical problem of international debt that continues to weigh heavily on the economies of the countries of Latin-America.

(4) Promote and sustain the initiatives of the financial institutions destined for projects concerning the popular-national economy with the counsel of Catholic volunteers and university students.

(5) Propose to competent organizations the study of the problem of purely speculative capital and the elaboration of international ethical norms in order to show the negative effects that the mobilization of this capital can produce.

(6) Remind competent organizations of the approved suggestion of the U.N. of earmarking 0.7% of Gross National Product from industrialized nations for programs for the improvement of living conditions of the populations of countries under the process of development.

[00095-02.05] [00083] [Original text: Portoguese]

H. Em. Rev. Card. Pio LAGHI , Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education (of the Seminaries and the Institutes for Study)

The Church is present and pastorally active at all levels of education at all levels in every country of the American continent: it runs more than 60 thousand schools, primary and secondary, attended by more than 17 million school-children; 330 universities and 40 theological faculties. This represents a qualitatively high cultural-educational "potential" for the Church to draw from, for its work in evangelization and for the dialogue between faith and science, and between the Gospel and culture. It is well known that without education man cannot achieve his true development, either as a human being or as a Christian ; education enables man to exercise his social rights and offer the Church a first class instrument for the proclamation and spreading of the Gospel. To ensure that this "potential" is put to the best possible use we should bear in mind that a Catholic school ought not to be restricted to merely transmitting" human values". First of all it should proclaim Christ as the fount of all values and the light guaranteeing the validity and destination of these values for the benefit of mankind. This means that a Catholic school should educate within the faith in Jesus Christ, since Christ is the foundation of its every educational project. Therefore a clear and precise Catholic identity should be maintained in all scholastic institutions, especially in regard to Christian guidelines for programs and pastoral initiatives: the adjective "Catholic" applied to these schools should never be reduced to a simple "adverb", but given the status of a "noun". This "educational project" requires planning so that, together with an efficient technical-professional training, it is able to offer a vision and culture inspired by the values of the Gospel, and to this effect includes the of teachers who are not only well-qualified professionally, but also devout Christians, who bear witness to their faith in the class-room as well as in their lives.

It is especially important to make a combined effort to increase the academic and scientific potential of Catholic Universities, through cultural exchanges and cooperation between Centers of the North and South; and at the same time promote and safeguard their Catholic identity through fidelity to the Christian message, institutional commitment to serve the Church, and reflection in the light of faith: only under these conditions can we accomplish an evangelization that reaches down to the roots of the life and customs of peoples, i.e. their culture, and which provides its natural support for the pastoral action of the Church.

[00096-02.04] [00084] [Original text: Italian]

H. Exc. Rev. Msgr. José Francisco ULLOA ROJAS , Bishop of Limón

Number 25 of the Instrumentum Laboris, in discussing the concrete signs of the religious reawakening in the Church, makes reference to ecclesial commitment in the cause for peace, reconciliation, and mediation of conflicts, a theme of great importance, given the frequency with which the intervention of the Church is solicited in situations of conflict, as much as in the social order, wherein one treats of human rights, as in mediation through dialogue in labor or political conflicts, wherein one treats of pacification and avoidance of violence from which follow these conflicts.

The Church has the mission of collaborating in the solution of conflicts. She is called to be the sign of reconciliation and communion, based on Christian roots, which are the common denominator in America. The Church enjoys important moral authority and is considered as an authentic pillar of society. This is accredited to Her as the sign of integrity, of justice, of peace, and of defense of human rights and of reconciliation. In this sense, this Synod must define pastoral aims and lines of action that commonly involve both the Christian community and the diverse sectors of society, in order to achieve "construction, by the citizens, of peace," and reconciliation among the sectors which are the most alienated among these and which have diverse interests.

[00097-02.03] [00085] [Original text: Castilian]

H. Exc. Rev. Msgr. Javier ECHEVARRÍA RODRÍGUEZ , Titular Bishop of Cilibia, Prelate of the Personal Prelature of Opus Dei

The new evangelization which our times require, can also be realized if the lay faithful assume their responsibility of conforming themselves in a Christian manner in the temporal order, inside of civil society. (LG 31). The problems of social justice, and in a special way, the promotion for the most needy, cannot be resolved only from the outside of civil and secular structures, for example, through assisted interventions, as the internal Christianizing of these same structures of society is indispensable. This is the task of those faithful who, by reason of their activity, find themselves immersed in these. Labor is the fulcrum of the Social Doctrine of the Church (LE 3). From this follows the capital importance of sanctifying professional work, the sanctification of self in professional work and sanctifying others through work, according to the example of Christ of Nazareth.

It is important to underline the ecclesial value of the ordinary life of the laity in the world. Working with professional seriousness, integrally observing the norms of professional morals, practicing Christian virtues, offering to God one’s own work in union with the sacrifice of Christ and seeking to serve others and to draw them to Christ through means of this activity, signifies efficaciously contributing to the edification of the Church.

[00098-02.05] [00086] [Original text: Italian]


This Seventh General Congregation concluded at 7:00pm, with the prayer "Angelus Domini". There were 223 Fathers present.


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