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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


13 - 22.11.1997




At 9.15 today, the Memorial of St. Cecilia, in the presence of the Holy Father, with the singing of the "Third Hour", the Tenth General Congregation of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for America was held, with the continuation of the debate on the Synodal theme. President Delegate on duty was H. Exc. Most Rev. Darío CASTRILLON HOYOS, Pro-Prefect for the Congregation for the Clergy.

At the opening of the Tenth General Congregation, the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, His Eminence Cardinal Jan P. SCHOTTE, C.I.C.M., invited the Synodal Fathers to participate in the Solemn Commemoration of the Servant of God Pope Paul VI on the centenary of his birth. The Commemoration will be presided over by His Holiness Pope John Paul II this evening at 6 pm in the Paul VI Hall. The Secretary General reminded the participants that the commemoration of Pope Paul VI will take place during the synodal celebration, because the Synod of Bishops was established by this Pope.

The following Fathers intervened:

During this Tenth General Congregation Rev. Dr. William RUSCH , Director of the Faith and Order Commission of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America (USA), Fraternal Delegate, intervened.

Herein we publish the summary of the speeches by the following Fathers:

H. Exc. Most Rev. Néstor Rafael HERRERA HEREDIA , Bishop of Machala.

The family has been, is, and will be the place for excellence in evangelization and in the faith. It is the domestic and earthly Church, fecund for the flowering of virtues and vocations.

In our America, the family has been, from its initiation, the faithful transmitter of the faith and the heart of what today is called the civilization of love. However, in this sector, we pastors often note with preoccupation and pain, situations of men and women who question our pastoral action in view of their familial reality which is not founded on matrimony. One deals with situations which are not the denial of the mystery of the love of Christ, nor of matrimonial indissolubility and fidelity; rather they stem from situations whose roots are in economic, social and cultural causes that precipitate free union, divorce, and new unions because of the necessity to subsist, to maintain and to educate their children and to defend themselves from sexual molestation.

The majority of these go to Mass, baptize and see to it that their children receive the sacraments, observe the other commandments, practice the works of mercy. Many of them actively participate in the celebration of the liturgy, en catechesis, in the apostolic movements and yet cannot receive absolution or the Eucharist.

Taking into account the growing number of persons in America living in this situation, I wish to ask the Synod - as the expression of fraternal and merciful invitation to these brothers and sisters who experience a profound, spiritual suffering - to enable the Episcopal Conferences to establish some norms, according to the reality of each Country, enabling these people to receive the Bread of Life in the Eucharist.

[00134-02.04] [00122] [Original text: Castilian]

H. Exc. Most Rev. Gustavo MARTÍNEZ FRÍAS , Bishop of Ipiales.

The Church is making a great effort to live in the spirit of communion. However, among many of its members there is a prevalence of individualistic spirituality. The topic of the Synod gives us an opportunity to deepen a spirituality that comes from communion, missionary endeavor, solidarity to overcome this situation.

1) Encounter with the living Jesus Christ is a personal and communal encounter that transforms personal life and the life of the community into that which he who believes in the Lord can belong.

2) The Church’s community ,missionary and solidarity spirituality disposes all its members, through the action of the Spirit, to respond to God’s call to holiness, to seek together to live the project God has for their lives, for the Church and for the world. It is sustained through the Word of God, prayer, the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, the Magisterium of the Church, the dialogue of salvation and fraternal relations, examination of signs of the times and personal and communal discernment.

3) This living community spirituality is basically experienced in groups of families and in parishes forming a great network of communities, groups and movements. The local churches are especially involved in the organic and dynamic community of the People of God, with the lay faithful working with their pastors; this occurs increasingly for all the sectors of the Church in America and the world.

4) This spirituality is based on a sense of communion, mission and solidarity, corresponding to an ascetic pastoral approach equally based on communion, mission and solidarity which is inculturated, global, organic and planned, involving all the members of the community with its gifts and charisma to support living, evangelized and evangelizing communities which can gradually transform society on the basis of the values of the Gospel.

5) An emphasis on a patient, didactic and global spirituality of communion with a missionary, solidarity orientation throughout the Church starting from the seminaries, priests, men and women religious and lay faithful, pastoral facilities and plans, should enable the Church in America to be in Christ, as the sign and instrument of close communion with God and the unity of all mankind.

[00135-02.03] [00123] [Original text: Castilian]

H. Exc. Most Rev. Ramón Darío MOLINA JARAMILLO , O.F.M., Bishop of Montería.

In N. 66, the Instrumentum Laboris deals with the "Solidarity and promotion of the culture of life".

The situation in Colombia and Latin America on the threshold of the third millennium of the Christian era is clearly in conflict with Catholic social doctrine favoring the dignity of human life.

The crisis profoundly affecting people’s lives in Colombia can be seen in a number of often terrible forms: growing violence, frequent episodes of genocide, more and more deliberate murders as well as suicides, abortion which has virtually been institutionalized by the state, euthanasia recently legalized by the Constitutional Court. To this we can add the numerous kidnappings, missing people, terrorism and torture, drug addiction, rapes and open, immoral use of birth control and physical mutilation.

Other factors affecting this serious situation involving lack of respect for life include: social injustice and the degrading inequality of opportunity which makes it difficult or impossible for a very large number of the public to satisfy their basic needs for a dignified standard of living. We can also mention corruption, the absence of a strong welfare state, extreme poverty, hate, vendetta, fratricidal conflict and people who take the law into their own hands.

The causes of the serious status of human life in Colombia, America and the world are based on the following factors, in this order: 1) human and Christian ignorance on the part of individuals, families and communities; 2) more and more individuals and entire groups who turn away from the Lord; 3) indifference to the Lord and His Plan of Salvation from the religious and moral viewpoint, with many people and communities turning simply to natural, legal and civil ethical norms.

People should be educated to respect life. Its promotion, development and defense at home, schools, the parish and the diocese so that there can be a proper, complete training in the field of religion, morals and sexual behavior.

[00136-02.03] [00124] [Original text: Castilian]

Rev. Fr. Juan E. VECCHI , S.D.B., Rector Major of the Salesian Society of St John Bosco.

Youth constitute the majority of the American population. They are an important element in social and ecclesial dynamics, exposed to the most grave consequences of progressive impoverishment.

At a young age, one makes their faith personal, one elaborates a first cultural synthesis, one assumes one’s own code of ethics, social preferences mature, and vocational options take form.

Many youths do this without reference to the faith, in a difficult confrontation with the offerings of the means of communication, and social groups, and the conclusions which one attributes to the sciences.

The search for meaning, is such that the models of life awaken interests and true interlocutors seek answers.

Jesus responds to the questions of the young and transcends them. The Father invites them to make themselves individuals in his image. The Spirit orients them towards the person of Jesus. The Church sees in youth its image, called to continual renewal and to live in hope. The church must overcome the distance and the alienation of the juvenile world so that its ennunciation rises to become the good news for youth.

Preferential attention for the young will be fundamental for the conversion of mentality, in order to construct communion and to establish a new solidarity in view of the coming millennium.

[00137-02.03] [00125] [Original text: Castilian]

H. Exc. Most Rev. Raymundo Joseph PEÑA , Bishop of Brownsville, Texas, USA

The Holy Father has called the pastors of the particular churches in the American continent to discern how best to carry out the Church’s Mission in our hemisphere, as we enter the third millennium.

The ecclesial life is developing on the border between Mexico and the United States can be a microcosmic model for our plan, given the fact that it does not only divide two nations, but also serves as the place of encounter for North America and Latin America, the first and third worlds and clearly divergent cultures. How we face the challenges on the border can help us face the same challenges throughout the continent.

The people on the border are predominantly Catholic and young. They know how to celebrate God’s goodness and they appreciate family and gift of life. Very often the border attracts the negative elements of two nations or cultures, and is affected by the predominant problems in the world. Immigration and economic globalization present a particularly powerful challenge to the pastors of the area. The appropriate pastoral response seems to be the effective fulfillment of our global mission "to preach the Gospel to all the nations".

While the border divides two nations, it does not divide families not does it divide the work of the Church. The pastors of border dioceses see their particular churches as twin churches, often with the same strengths and weaknesses. It is, therefore, necessary for us to work togheter in the work of evangelization.

The collegial collaboration that is developing between the particular churches of the border can serve as a model for the collaboration between Latin America and North America that the signs of the times demands. The periodic meetings that take place between the Episcopal conferences of North America and CELAM could well be the vehicle for planning and monitoring a continental pastoral plan for the new evangelization. It should give special emphasis to the border where two worlds meet, two worlds that only the Church can make one by leading them both to experience a true encounter with the living Jesus Christ, the way to conversion, communion and solidarity in America.

This Synod is a beacon of hope for the Church on the border and for the Church in America. May Our Lady of Guadalupe intercede for us and help us carry out our commitment to a renewed ecclesial life and to the fulfillment of the Church’s mission in America.

[00138-02.02] [00126] [Original text: English]

H. Exc. Most Rev. Ricardo RAMÍREZ , C.S.B., Bishop of Las Cruces.

The numbers of the poor in the United States of America are scandalously high for a country with so much wealth. In 1996, 37 million people lived below the poverty line. One half of the nation’s poor are children or elderly. We are also witnessing the phenomenon of the feminization of poverty. The gap between the richest Americans and the poor is larger than ever before and continues to grow.

While U.S. Catholics are generous in their charitable contributions, they lack a "social conscience" and fail to go beyond charity to work for justice. We bishops must maintain as a major concern, the weakest among us and recognize this as part of the law of charity. Our solidarity with the poor is rooted in communio, as articulated in Catholic social teaching.

We can broaden our work with the poor through partnerships with public and private agencies. The Church can be an effective advocate of empowerment and for laws, both domestic and international, to further justice in our country and beyond. The rich, or the nonpoor, are called to conversion in their relationship to the poor.

In the spirit of communio we want to invite our brother bishops in Latin America, the Caribbean and Canada to create structures that will lead to effective collaboration to benefit not only the poor, but also the rich of our hemisphere.

[00139-02.02] [00127] [Original text: English]

H. Exc. Most Rev. André GAUMOD , Bishop of Sherbrooke.

The ecological crisis is one of the greatest evils of this end of the millennium. The technological society is partly the cause. It is also a deeper crisis which touches the identity and mission of human beings in the world. The ecological crisis is an opportunity to recapture our quality of being "in relationship", and above all the quality of the world, for us and God.

In fact, God wants at the same time human life and permanence in the being of all creatures. Human beings are not first of all above , but among and with the other living beings that came out of the hand of God. As a creature, human beings are "in relationship". Transcendence which characterizes man in relation to other creatures is like the case of a gardener who is responsible for the whole creation.

That is why our land is holy. Likewise it is the habitat chosen by the son of God. Nature is the manifestation of the revelation of a God full of goodness which makes it possible for the human being to become and calls us to open up to otherness and creativity.

[00141-02.03] [00128] [Original text: French]

H. Exc. Most Rev. Fernando LUGO MÉNDEZ , S.V.D., Bishop of San Pedro.

Jesus’ proclamation of and commitment to the Kingdom of God was made at a time of division and inequality among the Jewish people. This proclamation was mainly founded on the creation of a fraternal community of disciples incarnating the Kingdom of God in history. Jesus’ call to his disciples to follow him and form a fraternal community with him was a reflection of the utopia of the Kingdom of God.

In today’s America, divided by unfair economic, social and religious inequalities, we cannot but admire and appreciate how the action of the spirit of Jesus continues to attract men and women disciples who set up new fraternal communities, which we refer to as basic ecclesial communities.

I can confirm that the BECs are a highly valid instrument for the training of our poor lay faithful.

The community dynamics prepare them to express their idea, to listen to others, for discernment, dialogue and democratic community participation. Since they live in freedom and shared responsibility, they acquire a healthy critical sense with regard to the means of communication. I have seen that the BECs are a Christian university for the people, the schools for training our lay faithful.

I would like to conclude by inviting all of you to experience, improve and accompany with new ardor the BECs as a major part of our episcopal mission, following in the steps of Jesus the Good Shepherd.

[00142-02.03] [00129] [Original text: Castilian]

H. Exc. Most Rev. John Clement FAVALORA , Archbishop of Miami.

Shared reflections and resolutions from the Bishops of Florida in response to the challenge of retaining our Catholic identity in a secular society - program of evangelization for the new millennium.

1. To pursue inclusive and welcoming liturgies, challenging homilies and better instructed programs of sacramental preparation.

2. To pursue the development of dialogue within the Church and with other cultures regarding Church teachings and moral life.

3. To pursue greater and more effective use of modern technology and media.

4. To pursue better formation and continuing education programs for clergy and laity.

5. To pursue the promotion of stewardship of time, talent and treasure as a way of life.

6. To pursue the inclusion of youth in planning the future directions of the Church.

[00143-02.02] [00130] [Original text: English]

H. Exc. Most Rev. Fabio BETANCUR TIRADO , Archbishop of Manizales.

The quality of evangelization. This is the proclamation of the Word of salvation through a way of living, a lifestyle testifying to the encounter with the living Jesus Christ. It is centered on the person, the recipient of the saving love of God, in order to free people from sin and make them capable of any good actions. This occurs through a process of conversion which enables people to grow completely in Christ and to build up the community. This enables us to live in communion, the authentic expression of the mystery of God and the Church. This communion is manifested in solidarity, the living expression of the love of God and of one’s neighbor, which must be expressed in service to everyone, in every situation and everywhere, organizing (political), producing, managing and exchanging goods (economic) and the creation of authentic values (culture). Active evangelization in this spirit produces the fruits of holiness, a vocation to which we are all called by the merciful love of God: "You must therefore set no bounds to your love, just as your heavenly Father sets none to his" (Mt 5:48). "Be yourselves holy in all your activity, after the model of the Holy One who calls us, since scripture says, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’" (1 Pt 1:15).

The quality of the evangelizers. The qualities characterizing the true evangelizers should include witness of life, their permanent love for the person, their spirit of communion, their capacity for solidarity in service and commitment until death in facing human realities, their striving for holiness. This applies to whatever condition of life the Lord has assigned them in the Church. This may be the lay status, which being secular requires the reflection of the Word Incarnate in the world. Then there are ordained ministers who, as living images of Christ leader and pastor, guide the community along the path to salvation. Finally, there is the consecrated life in which people adapt fully to Christ in the practice of the Gospel precepts, with the Son of God made man being the eschatological goal to which they aspire (Cf. VC 16). This requires the evangelizers, beyond their identification with Christ, to fully identify with the Church, the Body of Christ.

[00144-02.02] [00131] [Original text: Castilian]

H. Exc. Most Rev. Angel SAN CASIMIRO FERNÁNDEZ , O.A.R., Bishop of Ciudad Quesada.

For us, the "encounter with the living Jesus" is the "way to conversion". On our continent, this way of Jesus above all involves the new majority of poor people, before whom even Jesus feels moved (Mk 6:34). Now especially affected by the phenomenon of internationalization which is widening the gap between the "few who have much and the many who have little" (John Paul II). Their "cry" (Medellín, Puebla) is alive amongst us, although today it also consists of silence and desperation. The phenomenon of globalization and internationalization, which characterize today’s world, requires careful consideration by this Synodal Assembly.

Among the many "faces of Christ" stated at Puebla and Medellín, we should recall the following:

- the field workers, who are so often landless:

- the indigenous peoples, displaced and neglected;

- the lay faithful, the great strength and wealth of our churches.

[00145-02.03] [00133] [Original text: Castilian]

H. Exc. Most Rev. Gerald WIESNER , O.M.I., Bishop of Prince George.

The need to address the matter of women in the church in light of the invitation to an "Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ", is in itself a call to conversion, communion and solidarity.

Seeing women through the eyes of Jesus Christ, we find a treatment of and call to:

Openness and welcome - which include a recognition of the fundamental equality of all the baptized; a just and balanced collaboration in leadership roles; the participation of women as an essential ingredient in the Church’s nature as sign and instrument of unity.

Respect and honor -which include recognition of women’s own consciousness of their dignity and rights; awareness of and sensitivity to issues related to inclusion and fundamental equality.

Acceptance -which begins with a recognition of the complex reality of women’s lives, and is followed by an informed, inclusive and compassionate response.

Tenderness -which flows out of an encounter with the living Christ, and offers the hope of healing alienation, loneliness, hard-heartedness, and polarization.

Seeing through the eyes of Jesus, we are being asked: "How much of his message has been heard and acted upon?" Love and respect for our sisters in Christ challenge this Synod to an honest examination and courageous response to this question.

[00146-02.02] [00134] [Original text: English]

H. Exc. Most Rev. Francis John SPENCE , Archbishop of Kingston.

Three significant dimensions are examined: communicating the Christian vision of marriage and family; the present social, moral, and economic context in which families live; the critical role of fatherhood.

1) Most of our families are aware of the deep significance of their task, but have difficulty making the connection between the Christian vision of marriage and family and the daily realities of their lives. For some, the abstract language of Church teaching is a barrier. Also, emphasis on the ideal can result in discouragement and a sense of exclusion. Pastoral experience indicates the importance of a model of family ministry that is led by families, creates multiple opportunities to experience the link between daily life and faith, and promotes solidarity among families.

2) Families do not exist in isolation. Social and economic factors must be taken into account in developing pastoral approaches.

3) The present situation calls for careful reflection on the responsibility of both mothers and fathers toward their children. Many children of single-parent families have limited or no contact with their fathers, a situation with far-reaching and harmful consequences.

We ask this Synod to send a message of hope to all families, to explore ways to encourage families to take up the task of family ministry, and to promote the vocation of fatherhood as central to the well-being of families.

[00147-02.02] [00135] [Original text: English]

H. Exc. Most Rev. Luciano Pedro MENDES DE ALMEIDA , S.J., Archbishop of Mariana.

The missionary dimension of the Church is the fruit of love for Christ. America has been blessed with ardent missionaries who gave us the Christian faith, and even today they choose the poorest and needy areas.

The call of COMLA 4 was: "Latin America send missionaries from your faith", and from then onwards the number of missionaries "ad gentes" increased.

The missionary renewal finds its origin in the document "Ad Gentes" in "Evangelii Nuntiandi" and in "Redemptoris Missio" by Pope John Paul II.

Santo Domingo stressed the urgent need to evangelize "beyond frontiers".

COMLA 5, was held at Belo Horizonte in 1995. It encouraged the formation of missionaries "ad gentes", the project of the "sister Churches" and missionary animation, paying special attention to the non practicing baptized.

We await COMLA 6 to be held in Buenos Aires.


- to encourage among young people the missionary vocation and incentivate priests, religious and lay faithful to evangelize in countries of Africa and Asia (for example in China);

- to encourage missionary animation and popular missions;

- to promote collaboration and pastoral exchange;

- to follow emigrants, guaranteeing their necessary aid so that they can preserve and communicate their own faith;

- in the meantime, we propose that this Assembly studies the possibility of promoting at annual meetings the coordinating of missionary initiatives and cooperating between CAL, Episcopal Conferences in the Usa and Canada and CELAM.

May this Synod become the magna charta of evangelized and evangelizing America.

[00148-02.03] [00136] [Original text: Portoguese]

H. Exc. Most Rev. Fernando ARIZTÍA RUIZ , Bishop of Copiapó.

Various parts of the Instrumentum Laboris (N. 11, 12, 6, 61 etc.) refer to "material development with high social costs", "social marginalization" with oppressive situations and an increasing gap between rich and poor which cannot be overcome without the shaking man’s conscience, and undertaking a general solidarity movement..."

I would like this Synodal Assembly to echo the cry of the poor of the continent so that the plan of society and human relationships is increasingly in accordance with Jesus’ plan.

We hope that the church of America, which desires to follow the living Christ, will take a clear stance against economic individualism as the core of human activity.

This Synod should be the spokesman for the suffering and hope for the poor and excluded, so that Jesus Christ shall truly proclaim the Good News.

The Synod should call upon the conscience and sensitivity of pastoral agents and appeal to Christian politicians and economists to find a new alternative to the neo-liberal economic model.

The Synod should urge the substantial reduction of expenditure on weapons and on maintaining armies.

The Synod should - at least for some counties - urge the cancellation of the foreign debt which they cannot repay.

- The Synod should hope that in our churches in the Americas, and within each church , in the search for a genuine communion of goods and human resources.

[00150-02.02] [00138] [Original text: Castilian]

Most Rev. Fr. Bernardo OLIVERA , O.C.S.O, Abbot General of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance.

My address is on the topic of this Synod: the personal encounter with the living Jesus Christ.

The conclusions drawn at Santo Domingo urged all of us to grow in prayer as the expression of ardent, committed faith, loyal love which contemplates God in his true life in the Trinity and his saving action in history, that unshakable hope (37).

This is why, according to the Latin American bishops, it has to be ensured that all levels of pastoral activity give priority to contemplation and holiness, so that the Church can represent the presence of God in modern day man who thirsts for Him (144). To this end, the Pastors should acquire the proper means to foster an authentic experience of God in the lay faithful (99). We might ask what has happened to all these desires, announcements and proclamations. In order to favor the personal encounter with the Living Christ, I would like to propose the following measures.

- To implement all the necessary initiatives so that the Eucharistic celebration will be a privileged occasion for the enlivening, personal and social encounter with the Living Christ.

- To instruct the faithful by adequate means in the tradition of "lectio divina" so that God will speak to us in reading, and that we may respond in prayer, perceiving Him in contemplation, following and imitating Him in contemplation.

- To develop authentic expressions of Catholic piety (processions, pilgrimages, sacraments and devotions, especially Marian...) that make it possible to have access to this devotion, representing an immediate and fervent desire to commit oneself to everything that belongs to the service of God.

- To initiate young people - together with receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation - to this discernment of the Holy Spirit which, according to the oldest tradition, consists in: perceiving what moves the heart, distinguishing its orientation towards good or evil, and opting for suitable behavior in accordance with these feelings.

- To make certain forms known, both traditional and current, of Christian contemplative prayer, as for instance, in centering prayer. These forms of prayer allow many Christians to encounter, in their own spiritual tradition, what they find in other eastern traditions.

- To create and accompany spontaneous and shared prayer groups in the parishes, to praise the Lord and intercede for our brothers and sisters. In these groups, salvation is celebrated with a generous, joyful free and festive spirit, by which the bonds of Christian fraternity are made the same Spirit.

- To help and guide our American indigenous peoples to feel in harmony with God, the Creator of everything that exists, in this holy place which for them is the Earth, since this forms a substantial part of their religious experience.

- May our pastors be disciples and teachers in the art of contemplating the signs of the times in view of discerning in them the signs of God and cooperating with His work.

We religious men and women of America wish to express our desire to contribute by our own gift to the new evangelization. We undertake to create in our monasteries: areas for silence, prayer and contemplation in view of encountering God in Christ. Occasions for time, gratitude, celebration and rejoicing, occasions for the heart, open to welcome all seekers and people thirsting for the Living God.

[00151-02.03] [00139] [Original text: Castilian]


The Tenth General Congregation concluded at 12.30 with the prayer "Angelus Domini". There were 217 Fathers present.


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