DAILY CATHOLIC    MONDAY     April 19, 1999     vol. 10, no. 76


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          The Holy Father concluded the Synod of the Americas, begun in November 1997 and capped with his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America released at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City in January this year on the Pope's visit to the Americas. It is the Sovereign Pontiff who has expressed a strong desire to see North, Central and South Americas to be considered "one continent" and he expresses the solidarity, communion and conversion of all nations in the Western Hemisphere in this summation of all that was discussed and decided on between Rome and the Bishops of America at the month-long synod late in 1997. We bring you, over several installments, the entire document since it is pertinent not only to the Bishops and clergy, but to the lay communicants of the Americas. To read the entire document at one time or for footnotes, go to Ecclesia in America. To the right is installment eight of ECCLESIA IN AMERICA.

Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America

      From Pope John Paul II to the Bishops, Priests and Deacons, Men and Women Religious, and all the Lay Faithful on the encounter with the Living Jesus Christ: The Way to Conversion, Communion and Solidarity in America


The burden of external debt

    22. The Synod Fathers voiced concern about the external debt afflicting many American nations and expressed solidarity with them. They were consistent in reminding public opinion of the complexity of this issue, acknowledging that “the debt is often the result of corruption and poor administration”.(59) In keeping with the spirit of the Synod's deliberations, such an acknowledgment does not mean to place on one side all the blame for a phenomenon which is extremely complex in its origin and in the solutions which it demands.(60)

          Among the causes which have helped to create massive external debt are not only high interest rates, caused by speculative financial policies, but also the irresponsibility of people in government who, in incurring debt, have given too little thought to the real possibility of repaying it. This has been aggravated by the fact that huge sums obtained through international loans sometimes go to enrich individuals instead of being used to pay for the changes needed for the country's development. At the same time, it would be unjust to impose the burden resulting from these irresponsible decisions upon those who did not make them. The gravity of the situation is all the more evident when we consider that “even the payment of interest alone represents a burden for the economy of poor nations, which deprives the authorities of the money necessary for social development, education, health and the establishment of a fund to create jobs”.(61)


    23. Corruption is often among the causes of crushing public debt, and is therefore a serious problem which needs to be considered carefully. “Respecting no boundaries, [corruption] involves persons, public and private structures of power and the governing elites”. It creates a situation which “encourages impunity and the illicit accumulation of money, lack of trust in political institutions, especially the administration of justice and public investments, which are not always transparent, equal for all and effective”.(62)

          Here I wish to recall what I wrote in the Message for the 1998 World Day of Peace — that the plague of corruption needs to be denounced and combatted forcefully by those in authority, with “the generous support of all citizens, sustained by a firm moral conscience”.(63) Appropriate supervisory bodies and transparency in economic and financial transactions are helpful and in many cases stop the spread of corruption, the dire consequences of which fall in the main upon the weakest and most marginal members of society. It is also the poor who are the first to suffer as a result of delays and inefficiency, by not being properly defended, because of structural deficiencies, especially when corruption affects the administration of justice itself.

    The drug trade

    24. The drug trade and drug use represent a grave threat to the social fabric of American nations. The drug trade “contributes to crime and violence, to the destruction of family life, to the physical and emotional destruction of many individuals and communities, especially among the young. It also undermines the ethical dimension of work and increases the number of people in prison — in a word, it leads to the degradation of the person created in the image of God”.(64) This devastating trade also leads to “the ruin of governments and erodes economic security and the stability of nations”.(65) Here we are facing one of the most urgent challenges which many nations around the world need to address: it is in fact a challenge which threatens many features of the human progress achieved in recent times. For some American nations, the production, trafficking and use of drugs are factors which tarnish their international reputation, because they reduce their credibility and render more difficult the cooperation which they seek with other countries and which is so essential nowadays for harmonious social development.

    Ecological concern

    25. “And God saw that it was good” (Gen 1:25). These words from the first chapter of the Book of Genesis reveal the meaning of what God has done. To men and women, the crown of the entire process of creation, the Creator entrusts the care of the earth (cf. Gen 2:15). This brings concrete obligations in the area of ecology for every person. Fulfillment of these obligations supposes an openness to a spiritual and ethical perspective capable of overcoming selfish attitudes and “life-styles which lead to the depletion of natural resources”.(66)

          In this area too, so relevant today, the action of believers is more important than ever. Alongside legislative and governmental bodies, all people of good will must work to ensure the effective protection of the environment, understood as a gift from God. How much ecological abuse and destruction there is in many parts of America! It is enough to think of the uncontrolled emission of harmful gases or the dramatic phenomenon of forest fires, sometimes deliberately set by people driven by selfish interest. Devastations such as these could lead to the desertification of many parts of America, with the inevitable consequences of hunger and misery. This is an especially urgent problem in the forests of Amazonia, an immense territory extending into different countries: from Brazil to Guyana, Surinam, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.(67) This is one of the world's most precious natural regions because of its bio-diversity which makes it vital for the environmental balance of the entire planet.

    NEXT MONDAY: Installment nine - Chapter Three: THE PATH OF CONVERSION The urgency of the call to conversion

April 19, 1999       volume 10, no. 76


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