DAILY CATHOLIC    MONDAY     August 2, 1999     vol. 10, no. 143


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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 twenty-three 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


"As the Father has sent Me, even so I send you"
John 20: 21

    69. The new evangelization in which the whole continent is engaged means that faith cannot be taken for granted, but must be explicitly proposed in all its breadth and richness. This is the principal objective of catechesis, which, by its very nature, is an essential aspect of the new evangelization. “Catechesis is a process of formation in faith, hope and charity; it shapes the mind and touches the heart, leading the person to embrace Christ fully and completely. It introduces the believer more fully into the experience of the Christian life, which involves the liturgical celebration of the mystery of the Redemption and the Christian service of others”. (256)

          Well realizing the need for a complete catechesis, I made my own the proposal of the Fathers of the 1985 Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops to compose “a catechism or compendium of all Catholic doctrine regarding both faith and morals”, which could serve as “a point of reference for the catechisms or compendia that are prepared in the various regions”. (257) This proposal was implemented with the publication of the typical edition of the Catechismus Catholicae Ecclesiae. (258) In addition to the text of the Catechism, and for a better utilization of its contents, I intended that a General Directory for Catechesis should also be compiled and published. (259) I heartily recommend the use of these two resources, of universal value, to everyone involved in catechesis in America. It is to be hoped that both documents will be employed “in the preparation and the evaluation of all parochial and diocesan programs of catechesis, bearing in mind that the religious situation of young people and adults calls for a catechesis which is more kerygmatic and more organic in its presentation of the contents of the faith”. (260)

          It is necessary to acknowledge and encourage the outstanding work done by so many catechists throughout America as authentic messengers of the kingdom: “Their faith and their witness of life are an integral part of catechesis”. (261) I wish all the more to encourage the faithful to take up, with commitment and love of the Lord, this service to the Church, generously offering their time and their talents. Bishops for their part should be concerned that catechists receive appropriate formation to enable them to carry out this task, so indispensable in the life of the Church.

          In catechesis it will be useful to keep in mind, especially on a continent like America where the social question takes on such importance, that “growth in the understanding of the faith and its practical expression in social life are intimately connected. Efforts made to favor an encounter with Christ cannot fail to have a positive repercussion in the promotion of the common good in a just society”. (262)

    The evangelization of culture

    70. My Predecessor Paul VI widely remarked that “the split between the Gospel and culture is undoubtedly the drama of our time”. (263) Hence the Synod Fathers rightly felt that “the new evangelization calls for a clearly conceived, serious and well organized effort to evangelize culture”. (264) The Son of God, by taking upon himself our human nature, became incarnate within a particular people, even though his redemptive death brought salvation to all people, of every culture, race and condition. The gift of his Spirit and his love are meant for each and every people and culture, in order to bring them all into unity after the example of the perfect unity existing in the Triune God. For this to happen, it is necessary to inculturate preaching in such a way that the Gospel is proclaimed in the language and in the culture of its hearers. (265) At the same time, however, it must not be forgotten that the Paschal Mystery of Christ, the supreme manifestation of the infinite God within the finitude of history, is the only valid point of reference for all of humanity on its pilgrimage in search of authentic unity and true peace.

          In America, the mestiza face of the Virgin of Guadalupe was from the start a symbol of the inculturation of the Gospel, of which she has been the lodestar and the guide. Through her powerful intercession, the Gospel will penetrate the hearts of the men and women of America and permeate their cultures, transforming them from within. (266)

    Evangelizing centers of education

    71. Education can play an outstanding role in promoting the inculturation of the Gospel. Nonetheless, Catholic centers of education, and those which, although non-denominational, are clearly inspired by Catholic principles, will be able to engage in authentic evangelization only if at all levels — including that of the university — they clearly preserve their Catholic orientation. The content of the education they impart should make constant reference to Jesus Christ and his message as the Church presents it in her dogmatic and moral teaching. Only in this way will they train truly Christian leaders in the different spheres of human activity, and in society, especially in politics, economics, science, art and philosophical reflection. (267) Hence, “it is essential that the Catholic university be truly both things at once: a university and Catholic. Its Catholic character is an essential element of the university as an institution, and therefore does not depend simply on the decision of the individuals who govern the university at any particular time”. (268) Pastoral work in Catholic universities will therefore be given special attention: it must encourage a commitment to the apostolate on the part of the students themselves, so that they can become the evangelizers of the university world. (269) In addition, “cooperation between Catholic universities throughout America needs to be encouraged, for their mutual enrichment”; (270) this will help put into effect, at the university level too, the principle of solidarity and interchange between the peoples of the whole continent.

          Something similar must also be said about Catholic schools, particularly with regard to secondary education: “A special effort should be made to strengthen the Catholic identity of schools, whose specific character is based on an educational vision having its origin in the person of Christ and its roots in the teachings of the Gospel. Catholic schools must seek not only to impart a quality education from the technical and professional standpoint, but also and above all provide for the integral formation of the human person. (271) Given the importance of the work done by Catholic educators, I join the Synod Fathers in gratefully encouraging all those devoted to teaching in Catholic schools — priests, consecrated men and women and committed lay people — “to persevere in their most important mission”. (272) The influence of these educational centers should extend to all sectors of society, without distinction or exclusion. It is essential that every possible effort be made to ensure that Catholic schools, despite financial difficulties, continue to provide “a Catholic education to the poor and the marginalized in society”. (273) It will never be possible to free the needy from their poverty unless they are first freed from the impoverishment arising from the lack of adequate education.

          In the overall work of the new evangelization, the educational sector occupies a place of honor. For this reason, the activity of all Catholic teachers, including those working in non-denominational schools, should be encouraged. I also make an urgent appeal to men and women religious not to abandon this field which is so important for the new evangelization. (274)

          As a fruit and an expression of the communion existing between all the particular Churches of America, certainly strengthened by the spiritual experience of the Synodal Assembly, an effort must be made to promote gatherings of Catholic educators at the national and continental levels, in an attempt to coordinate and expand the educational apostolate in every context. (275)

          To carry out these tasks, the Church in America requires a degree of freedom in the field of education; this is not to be seen as a privilege but as a right, in virtue of the evangelizing mission entrusted to the Church by the Lord. Furthermore, parents have a fundamental and primary right to make decisions about the education of their children; consequently, Catholic parents must be able to choose an education in harmony with their religious convictions. The function of the State in this area is subsidiary; the State has the duty “to ensure that education is available to all and to respect and defend freedom of instruction. A State monopoly in this area must be condemned as a form of totalitarianism which violates the fundamental rights which it ought to defend, especially the right of parents to provide religious education for their children. The family is the place where the education of the person primarily takes place”. (276)

    NEXT MONDAY: Installment twenty-four: THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH IN AMERICA TODAY: THE NEW EVANGELIZATION Evangelization through the Media

August 2, 1999       volume 10, no. 143


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