After the speeches of over forty bishops in three days, the Synod atmosphere was percolating with tension until the Holy Father added some humor to the gathering today. By mimicking Charlie Chaplin's antics with his cane, he recalled his previous use of this comic routine before millions of delighted Filipinos in Manila some years ago. This provoked a spontaneous and unanimous burst of laughter among the Synod members, and helped them face the many difficulties which have been brought to the fore during their discussions.
The first sessions have made it very clear that the goal of this first Synod of the Church in both North and South America consists in facing together problems which are becoming ever more common between the two, due to the impact of the phenomena of external debt, social injustice, religious indifference, disintegration of the family, the propagation of the "culture of death," superficiality in the means of communications, immigration, etc.
The Archbishop of Philadelphia, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, presented the assembly with a curious poll which he made among the missionaries whom his archdiocese has sent to work in Latin America, in order to understand what are the most urgent needs and problems of the other part of the continent, the "far-away neighbor". All the priests interviewed offered practically the same list when asked precisely which evils Latin-American Catholics complained about.
In the first place, the missionaries mentioned the aggressive campaign of proselytism by the sects, financed on occasions by groups in the United States. In second place, they referred to the crisis of family life and matrimony. Third place went to denouncing the cultivation, sale, and consumption of drugs. All stressed the urgent need the people have of an adequate religious formation. Finally they all recognized that material poverty has continued to be an authentic tragedy for their faithful.
After receiving these results from his poll, the cardinal was surprised, since these dramatic needs are also found in his own archdiocese, in the United States, although on occasions they are manifested in different ways. According to Cardinal Bevilacqua, the conclusions to be drawn from this study are very clear: it is necessary to launch a new cooperative effort among the churches of the whole Continent; a cooperative effort, which until now has not existed.
This new work is more urgent than ever because of various phenomena, above all, because of the increased immigration of Hispanics into the United States. According to the United States Census Bureau, there are now 28 million resident Latin-Americans in the country, or 10 population of the population. By the year 2050, there will be 88 million, or 23 percent of the population. By 2030, Hispanics will account for 60 percent of the population increase in the United States. Meanwhile the growth of the non-Hispanic white population is expected to continue to level off, if not decrease.
Another factor that favors cooperation between the North and South is the enormous power of cultural homogenization which the means of social communications have among the Hispanic immigrants of North America. Experience shows that this influence instills materialistic values that undermine the practice of their Catholic faith. These facts will transform the face of Catholicism in America by the middle of the next century.
Mutual cooperation is a point of discussion for the whole Church in America, according to Cardinal Bevilacqua. Considering that the Synod is a unique opportunity to promote unity among the Church in the two hemispheres, he proposed the creation of commissions of bishops of the two hemispheres which would confront concrete challenges, for example, the proselytizing activities of non-Catholic groups, or the crisis of the family.
To respond to these challenges, Archbishop Pedro Rubrano Saenz of Bogata proposed that the churches of Latin America regularly send priests to the United States and Canada for a specific period of time to provide pastoral leadership for the Hispanics of those countries. He also recognized that it is necessary to share resources. According to the Colombian primate, the most serious problem in America is not so much a lack of priestly vocations as their poor distribution.
In this context, Archbishop Oscar Andres Rodriguez, president of CELAM, proposed the creation of an organization similar to "Adveniat", a charitable association for the Catholic communities of Latin America founded 36 years ago by the Church in Germany. This new organization, created with the contribution of the most powerful country in the world would augment the pastoral strength of the Churches in the South.
For its part, in Latin America, "where no one is so poor that he can't give," Archbishop Rodriguez thought it necessary to create another institution with similar characteristics with contributions from the 22 episcopal conferences that make up CELAM.
Bishop Luis Morales Reyes, president of the Mexican episcopal conference, proposed the writing and promulgation of an encyclical on "economic and globalization ethics," because he says that "the word of the Pope would be decisive to steer the process in the right direction for the welfare of all people."
But the Church will not be able to respond to these challenges if she is not united. In his contribution, Cardinal Eugenio Araujo Sales of Rio de Janeiro, a presiding delegate of the Synod, recalled that every particular Church of the Continent should take care to be an expression of the universal Church. According to the cardinal, the Pope-- perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity-- has the right and the duty to defend pastors against tendencies toward division, as well as to protect the faithful against the shocking negligence of pastors. This is a right of the faithful and a duty of the Pope. In concrete terms, the cardinal of Rio was referring to the enormous impact that the cases of division in the Church have, thanks to the media.
A significant detail in this regard: Cardinal James Hickey of Washington proposed that the seminarians of the United States learn Spanish and Latin as a sign of their communion with the whole Church.
I renew the promises I made in Baptism, when I renounced satan and all his pomps and works. I promise to live a good Christian life. Especially, I undertake to help, to the extent of my means, to secure the triumph of the rights of God and of Your Church.
Divine Heart of Jesus, I offer You my poor efforts so that all hearts may acknowledge Your sacred Royalty and the Kingdom of Your peace may be established throughout the entire universe. Amen.
Father all-powerful, God of love, You have raised our Lord Jesus Christ from death to life, resplendent in glory as King of creation. Open our hearts; free all the world to rejoice in His peace, to glory in His justice, and to live in His love. Bring all mankind together in Jesus Christ Your Son Whose Kingdom is with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever. Amen.
You anointed Jesus Christ, Your only Son, with the oil of gladness, as the Eternal Priest and Universal King. As Priest He offered His life on the altar of the Cross and redeemed the human race by this one perfect sacrifice of peace.
As King He claims dominion over all creation, that He may present to You, His almighty Father, an eternal and universal Kingdom: a Kingdom of truth and life, a Kingdom of holiness and grace, a Kingdom of justice, love, and peace.
And so, with all the choirs of Angels in Heaven we proclaim Your glory and join in their unending hymn of praise.
In an interview with the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Archbishop Tauran-- the Vatican's assistant Secretary of State, a position which in practice is equivalent to that of foreign minister-- emphasized that the positions taken by the Holy See were not necessarily the same as those of the Western world. He argued that a solution to the confrontation with Iraq could be part of a larger diplomatic initiative to solve the problems of the entire region, including the plight of the Palestinian people and the status of the city of Jerusalem.
Turning to the particular crisis in which the United States and the United Nations are facing an Iraqi refusal to allow international teams of inspectors, the Vatican diplomat pointed out that while the world did not respond to the pleas of Pope John Paul II to avoid a war in the Gulf six years ago, the Pope's predictions about the consequences of war have been proven accurate. Conceding that the allied victory over Iraq had produced a sort of international peace, he said that peace came "at the price of enormous sacrifices, which are still being paid six years later by a defenseless population, and without any definitive resolution of the problem."
Today, he repeated, the Holy See again looks for a peaceful solution to the many problems of the region. He insisted that the tensions in the Gulf could not be separated entirely from the problems that afflict other peoples in the region-- especially the Palestinians, Lebanese, and Kurds.
While the search for a universal solution to all these problems might appear quixotic, Archbishop Tauran called for "a discourse marked by hope-- human and Christian."
Asked whether the position of the Holy See might be characterized as "pro-Arab," the archbishop replied that the Pope, as the world's principal witness to the message of the Gospel, cannot be seen to ally himself with the Western world, but only with the cause of justice. If that is the case, he added, perhaps the leaders of other non-Christian and non-Western religions will follow his example.
VATICAN (CWN) -- "I am becoming more and more American," declared Pope John Paul II today, after hearing more than 70 addresses by bishops from North and South America at the special American Synod.
Perhaps the most popular suggestion advanced today came from Archbishop Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City, who proposed that the apostolic exhortation summarizing the Synod's findings should be released by Pope John Paul II during a visit to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadeloupe sometime late in 1998. An apostolic exhortation usually appears roughly one year after a synod concludes. Archbishop Rivera added that a papal visit to Guadalupe could also furnish the occasion for the beatification of Juan Diego, the Indian to whom the Virgin Mary appeared in 1531, sparking a drive to evangelize the Americas. Finally, the Mexican prelate suggested that Our Lady of Guadalupe be formally named the patroness of the Americas.
On Wednesady, the Synod participants saved their loudest applause for the final intervention of the day, by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, who issued a ringing call for personal holiness-- especially holiness among bishops.
"We preach best, and teach best, by our personal example," said Archbishop Chaput. "Anything which enables us to do that-- as bishops-- is good. Anything which prevents us from doing that, is not."
The top priority for bishops, he continued, should be to "become simple again." He warned: "I believe we are in danger of losing that Christ-like focus as bishops." The archbishop explained: " We have plans and committees and projects and staffs. All these things are important in their proper place. But at the end of the day, are we apostles or are we executives?"
"It is too easy today for a bishop to abdicate his missionary zeal to others, and become a captive of his own administrative machinery," continued the Denver archbishop. "Many of the problems we face as shepherds are not programmatic or resource-driven. They are problems of faith. Too often, those of us in the Church-- and even we bishops-- simply do not believe deeply and zealously enough."
"As Paul told Timothy, we must do the work of the evangelist," he concluded. "We are evangelizers first. That is our paramount purpose."
The Cuban government has granted permission for 26 priests and 30 religious sisters from Latin America to enter the country and work for the Catholic Church there in various places. According to Aid to the Church in Need, the secretary of the Cuban bishops' conference, Bishop Emilio Aranguren of Cienfuegos, called the group in Germany and spoke of his joy at the decision. The Church had long sought to make the Cuban authorities understand the need for more help with her pastoral ministry, the bishop said, so that this permission was clearly a breakthrough.
Most of the priests concerned are from Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and Spain, with one or two from Germany. The religious are all from Colombia and Mexico. Cuba had expelled foreign priests in recent history, but the upcoming visit by Pope John Paul to the country in January has been the occasion of various concessions to the Church by the Communists.
Bishop Thomas Costello, chairman of the Bishops' Communications Committee, said: "Families might consider this our Christmas gift to them -- help in deciding which movies will enrich their family life or which promote ideas contrary to Christian values." Movie-goers can call the Movie Review Line at 1-800-311-4CCC to hear recorded movie reviews of the current leading box office attractions. The Communications Campaign said the movies are reviewed by the Office for Film and Broadcasting according to their suitability for all audiences (A1); adults and adolescents (A2); adults (A3); adults with reservations (A4); and morally offensive (O).
Henry Herx, who developed the system, said "adults with reservations" would apply to a movie that "some might find objectionable, but treats the subject matter in such a way that it opens the material to better understanding."