Analysis From
a Brazilian Franciscan

By Father Antonio Moser, O.F.M., S.T.D.
translated from Portuguese by Fred Radtke, O.F.M..

Part 2 of a series

The Synod's Great Objectives

At the opening of the Conference of Santo Domingo, October 12, 1992, Pope John Paul II announced his intention to convoke a synod for all America. He spelled out the idea more clearly in his 1994 Apostolic letter "The Coming of the Third Millennium." In the context of the preparations for the Great Jubilee Year 2,000, the synod would seek: to promote a new evangelization in the whole continent in order to express an episcopal communion; to increase solidarity among the diverse local churches in the various fields of pastoral action; to shed light on the problems of justice in international economic relations among the nations of America, considering the enormous inequalities between the North, the Central and the South of the continent.

In the solemn opening on November 16, with a presence of 231 members, 58 invited (as listeners and experts) and 5 fraternal delegates, as well as a multitude of the faithful, the Holy Father offered new elements and emphasized some remedies, which are at the same time directives. Above all it deals with a very special moment for reflection and interchange about the mission of the Church on the American Continent.

The singular task (not plural), always present in the preparatory documents and taken up by the Pope in the opening homily is its reason for being: It is wished that this synod will indicate a direction which does not emphasize differences, but rather emphasizes what is common to all the American nations. This becomes very clear in the words of the Pope: "It is surely necessary during the Synod, to examine the Continent in its entirety, from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, without separating North America from Central and South America, in order not to run the risk of opposition. It is seek the deep motivations of this united vision, making an appeal to the common religious and Christian traditions."

Focus on the positive and the present

The accent on what unifies, cannot, obviously, hide the existing contrasts especially in the political and economic fields, but will be reflections that are more cultural and religious. For this it is necessary to analyze the historical causes: To what extent are these causes rooted in the last five centuries? To what extent do they stem from colonization? What is the influence of the first evangelizaton upon all this?

Nevertheless, a second direction already emerged here: Do not become fixated with the past but focus on the present; do not fixate on negative aspects, but on positive signs of the saving presence of Christ. In other words, without denying a variety of American realities, nor the mistakes of the past, the important thing is to carry out the task in a constructive manner.

Today, more than ever, globalization is a reality in all areas, even if this phenomenon presents questions and challenges that cannot be ignored. As an analysis of local problems, so a search for solutions, requires a joint vision and a joint action. It is clear that the Church is not given to magic solutions. But given her dynamic force, especially in America, certainly she can contribute a lot toward resolving religious social, economic and political problems.

Cooperation among the local churches of the American continent, especially on a pastoral level, can only be beneficial for everyone, including society as a whole. It is for this that this Synod is seen as a great opportunity for all. The slogan of the present Synod, brings new hopes and marks out new tasks for all: the "encounter with the living Jesus Christ, journeying towards conversion, a communion and solidarity in America."

As a Franciscan, I see an insight of our founder, St. Francis of Assisi, at work: A communion of all will be possible only if, starting from an understanding of the common origin of everything and everyone, we know how to transform our resentments, stemming from inequalities and differences, into a grand embrace of our founder's famous greeting: "Peace and good," (Pax et bonum!).

(Father Antonio Moser, O.F.M., is a Franciscan theologian from the Immaculate Conception Province in Brazil. He is a professor at the Franciscan Theological Institute in Petropolis, Rio de Janeiro, and is in Rome to accompany closely this momentous event. Father Fred Radtke, O.F.M., formerly a missionary in Brazil, now ministers at St. Peter's Parish in Chicago.)

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