[The following report-- one in a series of daily reports on the activities of the special Synod of the Americas-- comes through the courtesy of the international news agency ZENIT, based in Rome.] The bishops of North and South America, as they close the discussions of their American Synod, will seek to promote the "culture of life" throughout the Western hemisphere.
At a press briefing in the Vatican press office today, Archbishop Vitorio Pavanello of Campo Grande, Brazil, and auxiliary Bishop Gregorio Rosa Chavez of San Salvador, El Salvador, sketched for the press the essential outlines of the final document which the Synod fathers will present to Pope John Paul II. The two bishops laid heavy emphasis on the Synod's proposals related to economic life.
Bishop Rosa Chavez said that the Synod members were of one accord in their desire to promote the "culture of life." He said that the pastoral implications of that resolution could be expressed in four ways:
First, the Synod would call for redoubled efforts to defend the right to life. He added that this resolution would extend to the defense of life at every stage from conception until natural death.
That first resolution leads naturally into a second: the promotion of strong family life, since the development of the human person is best assured by strong family ties. The Church, the bishop continued, should promote social policies which would ensure that every family has access to food, health care, education, productive work, and dignified living conditions.
Third, as another assurance of human dignity, each individual should be able to participate in the democratic process, so that the society is governed according to the wishes of the people.
Fourth, the Church must continue her efforts at evangelization, so that more people become better acquainted with Jesus Christ. The struggle to uphold human dignity cannot be won in a vacuum, the Salvadoran bishop said; the full dignity of the human person must be found in the life of Christ. Through evangelization, he continued, the Church can offer hope to young people, showing them the way to live life in its fullness.
Speaking in concrete terms, Bishop Rosa Chavez predicted that the Synod would lament the plight of "street children" in Latin America, who live as orphans in the urban areas. He said that a preliminary draft of the synodal document had been too "romantic" in its treatment of this problem, and the revised version would lay out a more realistic account. The document will also caution against the exploitation of child labor, he said.
Archbishop Pavanello said that the Synod's desire to promote the full dignity of the human person required attention to every aspect of life on the American continent. He, too, emphasized the social engagement of the Church, and the desire to form an "economy in service to man," rather than a situation in which man serves the economic system.
The single term which best describes the appropriate economic arrangements, the archbishop said, is "solidarity." Such solidarity should extend not only to transactions in the marketplace and the treatment of the less fortunate members of society, but also to the accords that bind relations among nations.
Archbishop Pavanello said in particular that the wealthy nations of North America have an obligation not only to assist the less wealthy, but also to address the root causes of immigration. He criticized the United States, especially, for creating a climate in which millions of people leave their own countries to seek economic opportunities there.
The Church, the archbishop said, can play an important role in the development of social policies, since Church leaders enjoy greater respect, and more public confidence, than politicians. Therefore, he said, the bishops could apply pressure on the government to create more equitable laws and policies. He mentioned in particular the debts owed by developing nations to lending institutions in the wealthy countries-- suggesting that Catholics could seek to obtain more favorable terms for the repayment of the loans, or even partial forgiveness of those loans.
However, while stressing the moral obligations of the wealthy nations, the Synod would not overlook the problems caused by those who hold responsibility-- or, as Bishop Rosa Chavez put it, those who hold "irresponsibility"-- for living conditions in impoverished countries. Corruption and negligence should not be ignored, the bishops argued; public opinion should be rallied to demand more equitable and effective government.
Archbishop Pavanello and Bishop Rosa Chavez also pointed to the Synod's denunciation of drug traffic, support for agrarian reform, and promotion of communal self-help projects.
However, the press briefing by the two bishops did not lay any emphasis on the spiritual themes of the Synod, nor did they mention the possibility-- raised repeatedly during the bishops' discussions-- that the formal closing of the Synod could present the opportunity for the Pope to visit Mexico City, preside at the canonization of Juan Diego, and affirm the status of Our Lady of Guadalupe as the patroness of the Americas.
The final document of the Synod will be made public on Friday, ending speculation about the bishops' proposals and the emphasis that may be put on social action as opposed to evangelization. The proposals contained in the document will be edited and promulgated in an apostolic exhortation by Pope John Paul II at some unspecified date in the future. The formal adjournment of the Synod meetings will occur on Friday, December 12: the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
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