DAILY CATHOLIC    MONDAY     June 21, 1999     vol. 10, no. 120


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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 seventeen 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


      48. Children are God's gift and a sign of his presence. “There is a need to accompany children in their encounter with Christ, from Baptism to First Communion, since they are part of the living community of faith, hope and love”. (182) The Church is grateful for the efforts of parents, teachers, pastoral, social and health care workers, and all those who seek to serve the family and children with the same attitude as Jesus Christ who said: “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 19:4).

      The Synod Fathers rightly deplored and condemned the painful condition of many children throughout America who are denied their dignity, their innocence and even their life. “This condition includes violence, poverty, homelessness, lack of adequate health care and education, the harm inflicted by drugs and alcohol, and other states of neglect and abuse”. (183) In this regard, special mention was made during the Synod of the problem of the sexual abuse of children and child prostitution, and the Fathers made an urgent appeal “to all those holding authority in society, that, as a priority, they do all in their power to alleviate the suffering of children in America”. (184)

Elements of communion with other Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities

      49. Between the Catholic Church and the other Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities there exists a drive towards communion rooted in the Baptism which each administers. (185) It is a drive nourished by prayer, dialogue and joint action. The Synod Fathers wished to express their special desire “to cooperate in the dialogue already under way with the Orthodox Church, with which we share many elements of faith, sacramental life and piety”. (186) The specific proposals of the Synodal assembly concerning non-Catholic Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities as a whole were numerous. It was suggested in the first place “that Catholic Christians, Pastors and faithful foster cooperation between Christians of the different confessions, in the name of the Gospel, in response to the cry of the poor, by the promotion of justice, by common prayer for unity and by sharing in the word of God and the experience of faith in the living Christ”. (187) Also to be promoted, when possible and appropriate, are meetings of experts from the different Churches and Ecclesial Communities aimed at facilitating ecumenical dialogue. Ecumenism should be a subject of reflection and shared experience between the different Catholic Episcopal Conferences in America.

      Although the Second Vatican Council refers to all those who are baptized and believe in Christ as “brothers and sisters in the Lord”, (188) it is necessary to distinguish clearly between Christian communities, with which ecumenical relations can be established, and sects, cults and other pseudo-religious movements.

The Church's relations with Jewish communities

      50. American society also includes Jewish communities, with which the Church has fostered increasing cooperation in recent years. (189) The history of salvation makes clear our special relationship with the Jewish people. Jesus belongs to the Jewish people and he inaugurated his Church within the Jewish nation. A great part of the Holy Scriptures, which we Christians read as the word of God, constitute a spiritual patrimony which we share with Jews. (190) Consequently any negative attitude in their regard must be avoided, since “in order to be a blessing for the world, Jews and Christians need first to be a blessing for each other”. (191)

Non-Christian religions

      51. As for non-Christian religions, the Catholic Church rejects nothing in them which is true and holy. (192) Hence, with regard to other religions Catholics intend to emphasize elements of truth wherever they are to be found, while at the same time firmly bearing witness to the newness of the revelation of Christ, preserved in its fullness by the Church. (193) Consistent with this attitude, they reject as alien to the spirit of Christ any discrimination or persecution directed against persons on the basis of race, color, condition of life or religion. Difference of religion must never be a cause of violence or war. Instead persons of different beliefs must feel themselves drawn, precisely because of these beliefs, to work together for peace and justice.

      “Muslims, like Christians and Jews, call Abraham their father. Consequently throughout America these three communities should live in harmony and work together for the common good. The Church in America must also work for greater mutual respect and good relations with the native American religions”. (194) A similar attitude should be fostered with regard to the followers of Hinduism, Buddhism and other religions who have come to America as a result of recent waves of immigration from the East.

NEXT MONDAY: Installment eighteen - Chapter Five: PATH TO SOLIDARITY Lay faithful and the renewal of the Church

June 21, 1999       volume 10, no. 120


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