The second phase of the Synod of Bishops for America ended, as the twelve language groups presented their proposals for Church renewal, evangelization, inter-religious dialogue, and economic justice.
The Church is losing members, in part, because of overly "moralistic" preaching of the Gospel, according to Archbishop Juan Francisco Sarasti Jaramillo of Ibague, speaking for his Spanish-language group. That group concluded that the Church must correct her internal problems to prevent the authentic message of Jesus Christ from being lost.
The group also mentioned moral and financial scandals, excessive bureaucracy in certain ecclesial structures, and a lack of solid formation of Catholics in the faith. These problems are aggravated by "a well-financed campaign to destroy the Catholic Church" from without, the group said.
All of the groups agreed that the Church's reaction must begin in parishes, the institution closest to the faithful. The parish has been presented as a "community of communities," in which everyone is welcome: base communities, apostolic movements, and families. Parishes, both rural and urban, must also dismantle their bureaucracies in order to become more missionary.
Some groups, fearing a growing bureaucracy, have opposed the creation of an episcopal council for the entire American Continent. Instead, they propose that CELAM, the episcopal conference of Latin America, create an office to inform the Church in the United States and Canada of its needs. The US episcopal conference has had such an office for several years to keep the South informed.
A concrete expression of the growing solidarity among Synod participants is seen in the agreement that the regions of America better distribute their priests, especially to minister to countries that are suffering shortages.
To overcome the current polarization that has exacerbated the problems with non-Catholics, Bishop Mario del Valle Moronta Rodriguez of Los Teques has proposed a "trialogue" among Jews, Muslims, and Christians. This would include relations with the Protestant groups that most Latin American Catholics call "sects", such as the Baptists and Pentecostals. Some of these groups have been in dialogue with the Holy See for decades. The bishop hopes it will thus be easier to warn the faithful about pseudo-religious groups, such as New Age, which constitute a very real threat and require a serious and effective pastoral strategy.
The Synod has clearly demonstrated the important challenges brought about by economic globalization and the lack of resources that many bishops face in confronting them. One participant went so far as to call for the "criminalization" of globalization. The language groups concluded, however, that the bishops are not experts on economics and therefore are not qualified to provide solutions for financial problems. The bishops, for instance, have presented few proposals for dealing with the external debt in the South.
The Synod also addressed the impact of the means of social communications in a globalized society. It has urged bishops to make more use of new technology.
Spanish Language Group C, moderated by Archbishop Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico, encouraged the further development of the Information Network of the Latin American Church (RIIAL) , and television networks such as that of the Brazilian episcopal conference. CELAM recently announced that it will launch two TV channels, one in Portuguese and the other in Spanish.
On Wednesday the Synod will begin to draw up proposals of the whole assembly. The Synod is expected to: