Tuparenda (Fides Service) – Never before has the Church in Latin American had so many means and opportunities for proclaiming Jesus Christ and helping the faithful to grow in the faith, therefore “we cannot allow our peoples’ faith in the Son of God be replaced with religious indifference or the concerns of this world to suppress aspiration for God”. This was said by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, in his homily during the opening Mass for the 29th assembly of the Council of Latin American Bishops’ Conferences (CELAM), on Tuesday 13 May in Tuparenda, Paraguay. The assembly will close on 16 May.
Cardinal Re emphasised that the economic and technological development which is making headway in Latin America must be accompanied by spiritual development because, “purely economic development in the end destroys man”. In today’s society faith is put to the test and it is not enough to have a superficial or traditional faith “faith must be renewed, that is, we must help people to be convinced in their faith” .
Speaking about the “New Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops” Cardinal Re recalled the main principles which are the foundation of the ministry of diocesan bishops: the pneumatological principle (it is the Holy Spirit who works in hearts and in the world); the principle of truth which demands personal search for truth and commitment to perfecting teaching; the principle of communion (the bishop is the visible foundation of the unity of his diocese and also of the unity of the Catholic Church as a whole); the principle of collaboration which demands commitment to promoting the participation of all the members of the Christian people in the one mission of the Church; the principle of respect for competencies giving collaborators opportune faculties and fostering suitable initiatives on the part of the faithful; the principle of legality which prevents bishops from governing according to personal views and schemas.
Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa (Honduras), called attention to the paradox of religious indifference which exists in Latin America today: “on the one hand the search for spirituality, new answers, on the other indifference. The cause of this problem is rampant materialism, fruit of a global culture”. Recalling the Holy Father’s own words the Archbishop of Tegucigalpa said “ globalisation of solidarity” is the only path to countering economic globalisation, focused on trade and a materialistic mentality, which puts the human person to one side: “we open frontiers for trade but close them to people” .
Reports by representatives from various countries in Latin America emphasised the increase in already high rates of unemployment, growing poverty and suffocating debt. In the social field there is a longing for participation and a search for values which contribute to building a more fraternal and democratic society. There is also concern for the political situation, the pulverisation of parties, the appearance of independence movements, the lack of formation of persons to participation, the spread of social-political conflicts and intolerance, the increase in corruption at all levels.
Problems emerging from the analysis of the continent include: moral relativism and loss of values; legal and social acceptance of facts that threaten life and the family; the phenomenon of migration and forced exodus; the scandal of impoverishment and social exclusion; the spread of Christian religious groups and fundamentalist sects. Emerging pastoral priorities were: formation, the missionary dimension, striving for holiness, the family, promotion of vocations and commitment for human promotion. The important role of the Church in education and the social field as well as a qualified presence in the media was also highlighted.
On 15 May CELAM elected its new executive committee: President - Card. Francisco Javier Errázuriz, Archbishop of Santiago del Cile; First Vice president: Bishop Carlos Aguiar Retes, of Texcoco in Mexico; Second Vice president: Archbishop Gerardo Lyrio Rocha, of Vitória da Conquista in Brazil. (R.Z.) (Fides Service 16/05/2003; lines 48; words 631).