DAILY CATHOLIC    MONDAY     March 29, 1999     vol. 10, no. 61


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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 five 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 situation of the men and women of America and their encounter with the Lord

"From those who have received much, much will be required" (Luke 12:48)

    13. The Gospels tell of Jesus encountering people in very diverse situations. At times these are situations of sin, which show the need for conversion and the Lord's forgiveness. At other moments we find people searching for the truth and genuinely trusting in Jesus — positive attitudes which help to establish a friendship with him and awaken the desire to imitate him. Nor can we forget the gifts with which the Lord prepares some people for a later encounter. Thus, by making Mary “full of grace” (Lk 1:28) from the very beginning, God prepared her for the realization in her of God's supreme encounter with human nature: the ineffable mystery of the Incarnation.

          Like the social virtues, sins do not exist in the abstract, but are the consequence of personal acts.(31) Hence it is necessary to bear in mind that America today is a complex reality, the result of the attitudes and actions of the men and women who live there. It is in this real and concrete situation that they must encounter Jesus.

    The Christian identity of America

    14. The greatest gift which America has received from the Lord is the faith which has forged its Christian identity. For more than five hundred years the name of Christ has been proclaimed on the continent. The evangelization which accompanied the European migrations has shaped America's religious profile, marked by moral values which, though they are not always consistently practiced and at times are cast into doubt, are in a sense the heritage of all Americans, even of those who do not explicitly recognize this fact. Clearly, America's Christian identity is not synonymous with Catholic identity. The presence of other Christian communities, to a greater or lesser degree in the different parts of America, means that the ecumenical commitment to seek unity among all those who believe in Christ is especially urgent.(32)

    The fruits of holiness in America

    15. The Saints are the true expression and the finest fruits of America's Christian identity. In them, the encounter with the living Christ “is so deep and demanding . . . that it becomes a fire which consumes them completely and impels them to build his Kingdom, to the point that Christ and the new Covenant are the meaning and the soul . . . of personal and communal life”.(33) The fruits of holiness have flourished from the first days of the evangelization of America. Thus we have Saint Rose of Lima (1586-1617), “the New World's first flower of holiness”, proclaimed principal patroness of America in 1670 by Pope Clement X.(34) After her, the list of American saints has grown to its present length.(35) The beatifications and canonizations which have raised many sons and daughters of the continent to public veneration provide heroic models of the Christian life across the range of nations and social backgrounds. In beatifying or canonizing them, the Church points to them as powerful intercessors made one with Christ, the eternal High Priest, the mediator between God and man. The Saints and the Beatified of America accompany the men and women of today with fraternal concern in all their joys and sufferings, until the final encounter with the Lord.(36) With a view to encouraging the faithful to imitate them ever more closely and to seek their intercession more frequently and fruitfully, the Synod Fathers proposed — and I find this a very timely initiative — that there be prepared “a collection of short biographies of the Saints and the Beatified of America, which can shed light on and stimulate the response to the universal call to holiness in America”.(37)

          Among the Saints it has produced, “the history of the evangelization of America numbers many martyrs, men and women, Bishops and priests, consecrated religious and lay people who have given life . . . to [these] nations with their blood. Like a cloud of witnesses (cf. Heb 12:1), they stir us to take up fearlessly and fervently today's task of the new evangelization”.(38) Their example of boundless dedication to the cause of the Gospel must not only be saved from oblivion, but must become better and more widely known among the faithful of the continent. In this regard, I wrote in Tertio Millennio Adveniente: “The local Churches should do everything possible to ensure that the memory of those who have suffered martyrdom should be safeguarded, gathering the necessary documentation”.(39)

    NEXT MONDAY: Installment six - Chapter Two: Popular Piety

March 29, 1999       volume 10, no. 61


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