Normally Synod talks are given in an atmosphere of respectful silence. Yesterday, however, the Synod broke into its first general applause after hearing three proposals from Archbishop Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City. First, the archbishop invited the Holy Father to officially close the Synod in the Basilica of Guadalupe, near Mexico City. Second, he asked for the canonization of Juan Diego, and finally, he suggested that the Pope reaffirm the proclamation of Our Lady of Guadalupe as Queen of the Americas.
The Synod Assembly continued discussing many great challenges that the Church must face in the third millennium, and occasionally offered new aspects for consideration.
As is already widely known, the Synod's working document denounced corruption, the deficiencies in the administration of justice, and the loss of prestige which politics is now experiencing. This is a type of self-isolation, within which many Catholics have sealed themselves through a failure to educate and form those people who could have made a difference in these areas. In light of this, Archbishop Alberto Giraldo Jaramillo of Medellin, invited the Synod to think of a plan to help lay Christians use their rights to participate in political life responsibly.
In response to the speeches which have alerted the Synod to the efforts of de-Christianization promoted by the media, Cardinal Jean- Claude Turcotte of Montreal affirmed that the Church should not have fear of the means of social communication. "Without our presence in these means of communication, we run the risk of being absent from the world," said the Canadian cardinal. The Church has to actively seek to be present in television in an attractive way. In Canada, the average person spends 25 hours a week watching television. There are lessons to be learned here for pastors, who shouldn't use television to defend their teachings, but to witness to it, since images impact the senses more than reasons do.
The "global village" concept, which has been analyzed by several bishops in these first days, has produced a dramatic phenomenon: immigration.
Coadjutor Bishop Jacinto Guerrero Torres of Tlaxcala, Mexico, proposed ways "to overcome a vision of international relations that is purely structural and centralized on economic and political power, in order to contribute to the creation of an intercultural relationship founded on the Christian vision and experience."
Archbishop Francis Eugene George of Chicago spoke of the differences that exist between the Calvinist and individualistic society of the United States, and Hispanic society with its strong family ties. The archbishop of multi-ethnic Chicago, while referring to the problem of Hispanic immigration, stressed that these Catholics are called to find new ways of being Catholic in order to preserve their faith in a culturally hostile context. They live in a society that protects the rights of individuals and therefore, is efficient, but it isn't a fully human culture. He recognized that this goal requires an increased effort of assistance on the part of the Church, which should not be only a type of Red Cross or a non-governmental organization. "The greatest poverty is not to know Jesus Christ."
Archbishop Rivera Carrera, made a summary of Christian thought regarding this issue with one phrase: "There are no 'foreigners' in the Church."
One of the main issues on the Synod floor is the stance that the Church should take regarding the religious sects. In previous sessions it was noted how easily non-Catholic Christian groups are mistakenly considered as religious sects. Yet in today's session, Bishop Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago of Leon (Mexico) considered the other side: "We cannot look upon this phenomenon with indifference, as if it only deals with the question of an incomplete path to salvation." According to the bishop, "the problem is causing dramatic consequences" due to their "aggressive proselytism" and their "religious fanaticism."
This issue was highlighted by Archbishop Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City. On the one hand, he proposes to promote ecumenism with the Christian communities, instilling greater respect and tolerance, but on the other hand, he condemned their "aggressive attitude against the Catholic Church and the lack of interest for any unity on the part of the new religious movements and sects".
A united strategy is required on the part of the Catholic Church in the Continent in order to face these common challenges. Various participants, such as Archbishop Pedro Antonio Marchetti of Curitiba (Brazil), and Bishop Josť Dolores Grullon Estrella of San Juan de la Maguana (Dominican Republic), asked that there be created an organization headed by the Holy See that connects the three episcopal conferences of Canada, United States, and Latin America. "Each day we are 'Americanizing' a little more," joked John Paul II, drawing smiles from the public. But the Holy Father wished to point out the intensity with which the assemblies are confronting the problems shared by both hemispheres of the Continent.