VATICAN (CWN) -- Pope John Paul II sees the present as a favorable time for the New Evangelization in America.
Speaking to the members of the American Synod as they concluded their deliberations on Thursday afternoon, the Holy Father stressed the need for a new effort to evangelize the Western hemisphere.
The meetings of the American Synod ended today, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, with a formal liturgical celebration in St. Peter's Basilica, concelebrated by the Pope along with 41 cardinals, 81 archbishops, 91 bishops, and 76 priests.
In his homily, the Pope recalled the example of the missionaries who had evangelized the New World five centuries ago. "Now," he said, "is a favorable time for the New Evangelization, a providential occasion to lead the People of God in America to cross the threshold of the third millennium with renewed hope."
The world today is "hungry for truth," the Holy Father said, and that truth can be found through an encounter with Jesus Christ. Toward that end, he challenged all Christians to follow their own baptismal vocations, and bring all of the world closer to Christ.
The most revolutionary result of the American Synod may be the bishops' new perception of "America." What had been long considered two continents-- the rich mosaic of lands and peoples of the New World-- the bishops have learned to view as one country: "America", and the treasure of its own diversity.
"In this common country there are common problems and richness," said Archbishop Dario Castrillon Hoyos of Colombia, the pro-prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy and one of the delegated presidents of the assembly. "From this Synod, we leave with a less provincial and more objective and broad vision."
His comments came at a Thursday press conference, hours before the Synod Fathers gave final approval to the 76 propositions that will be used by Pope John Paul II in writing the postsynodal exhortation.
One journalist at the press conference objected to the "one continent" view, claiming that the differences between the North and South are too great. In response, Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, archbishop of Montreal, defended the view of the Synod Fathers. "Often it is a matter of the same problems seen in a different way," he said. "For example, the ecumenical dialogue in the South of America, where 90 percent of the citizens are Catholic, is lived in a very different way than in the North, where we Catholics are in the minority."
"Our experience of dialogue with other Christians has been very useful for the bishops of the South," said the cardinal, who is also president of the Canadian episcopal conference. "That's why the intuition of the Holy Father to convoke a Synod for America has shown itself to be brilliant.
Three US archbishops will help shape the final text of the American Synod, a document that will be signed by the Pope when he visits Mexico, probably in December 1998.
Archbishops Francis Eugene George of Chicago, Theodore Edgar McCarrick of Newark, New Jersey, and William Joseph Levada of San Francisco will join twelve other prelates on the panel that assists John Paul II in the writing of the postsynodal exhortation for the historic assembly.
Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez, archbishop of Guadalajara and Relator General of the Synod, read the Latin draft of the final proposals to the assembly over the course of three hours.
Two of the wide-ranging 78 propositions denounce the arms trade and drug trafficking as manifestations of the "culture of death." Others reaffirm the preferential option for the poor, offer solutions for external debt, and address the challenges of economic globalization.
Another group of proposals, centering on ecumenism, calls for dialogue with other Christian denominations, denounces violence in the name of religion, and promotes respect and collaboration with Jews. The document avoids using the word "sect" to describe evangelical Protestant groups, though it does denounce "religious proselytism."
The bishops' desire to proclaim the "Guadalupana" as Queen and Patroness of America is spelled out. Earlier, many bishops had proposed the title "empress" for Our Lady, but the Latin text reads "Regina et Patrona." The same proposal goes on to say, "We propose to implore the Supreme Pontiff to consider the possibility of declaring December 12 the liturgical solemnity of Our Lady of Guadalupe for the entire Continent." It presents Juan Diego, the native Mexican to whom the Virgin appeared, as a model of transmission of the Gospel. Many bishops hope that the 16th-century Aztec will be canonized by the Holy Father when he visits Mexico.
The proposals reaffirm the Church's stance against euthanasia and assisted suicide. They reiterate the condemnation of abortion while affirming that the Church should offer assistance to women in need. They call for doctors and public officials to act conscientiously in these issues, and urge priests and bishops to be "tireless witnesses to the Gospel of life."
Renovation of parish life is also called for. According to proposition 47 and 48, which the Synod proposes as a new model for pastoral work, renewed parishes, would become a "community of communities", open to new charisms, services and ministries. Despite a lack of resources or excessive bureaucracies, parishes must put a new emphasis on Christian initiation, education in the faith, and liturgy it said.
In addition to the three US prelates and Cardinal Sandoval, other members of the Postsynodal commission are:
The final preparation of the exhortation will likely take eight months. Plans call for the Pope to sign it in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in accordance with the vote of the Synod Fathers.