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 3 of a series

The Synod's Four Themes (part 1)

The Synod for Americaās work is being guided by a document whose themes set the stage for the discussion among the representatives of the Church throughout America. In this article I will discuss some of the main ideas.

It is vital to meet the living Christ
The Church was always aware that evangelization constitutes her very reason for being. But the new context in which we live brought the Church of the continent to perceive the necessity of a "new evangelization: new in its passion, new in its methods and new in its expression." Moreover, in the last decades the Church has stressed that evangelizatino must be inculturated. The Church must help each culture in the light of the gospel to discover its positive values and its negative points.

At the same time the Church must be open to the evangelical richness which is already present in every culture, though sometimes implicitly and in a mixed way. For this reason it can be said that when the Church evangelizes, she herself is also evangelized.

The Synod's working document lists signs of hope and also challenges. Many of these correspond to the already known strengths and weaknesses of modernity and post-modernity. The indigenous and Afro-American cultures suggest other lights and shadows: the search oneās own identity, the rediscovery of oneās origins and traditions, love for the earth, respect for ancestors, a sense of community, a religious sense of life and of death, music, dance, song—all are certainly values of those cultures. But there are also points to be overcome: alcoholism, fetishism, superstition, witchcraft, religious fatalism, sorcery, quackery, etc.

Something similar must be said in relation to the culture of migrating peoples, be it from a period more distant in history or of the last decades. Normally a pronounced sense of family, a profound religiosity is present there. Yet it does not always carry with itself a commitment resulting from the faith professed.

Conversion is indispensable for everyone
The call to conversion was present in the Old Testament, but even moreso the insistent appeal of Jesus Christ. It is not only an appeal to sinners or those thought to be such, but to everyone and every society. The Church, in spite of being holy because of the animation of the Holy Spirit, must be the first to give an example of conversion, because she is also sinful insofar as she is made up of fragile human beings and of structures which carry the same characteristics. Without doubt, there are positive signs in this direction. However, there are equally signs showing exactly the opposite.

In today's society there is a greater consciousness concerning human dignity: justice, human rights, ecology, solidarity, generosity, and the search for spiritual and transcendental values. Nevertheless, at the same time there are signs of deterioration that cause worry. For this reason we have to do as St. Francis said: "We have to begin again because until now we have done little."

(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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