a Brazilian Franciscan
By Father Antonio
Moser, O.F.M., S.T.D.
translated from Portuguese by Fred Radtke, O.F.M..
Part 5 of a series
From the Synod Floor
There is a vast panorama
of themes addressed both by the working document and the brief presentations
by participants of the Synod for America. We choose some which appear
more often and in some way show us the theme of this synod: The desire
to embrace and illumine with the Gospels the great pastoral challenges
of the continent.
1. Basic Christian Communities
The "Basic Christian Communities" and the preferential option for
the poor and marginalizedrealities at times seen with a certain
distrustfulness in some sectors of the Churchhave emerged strongly
on the Synod floor. The basic Christian communities, with their communal,
ecclesial and structural dimensions, have already been described in
the working document as a positive sign of life in the Church. On
the Synod floor they were recognized as having an important place
in many parishes and dioceses, as favoring a new evangelization, as
being a form of affirming popular ministries and religiosity, as representing
an important element in the promotion of the poor and in the transformation
In the same way,
the preferential option for the poor and the marginalized was analyzed
in its more profound causes. Paths were pointed out for a solution
to the growing poverty in all of America. It was affirmed that poverty
is not the result of chance, but the reflection of economic mechanisms,
reinforced by such factors as the globalization of the economy,
foreign debt, drug trafficking and generalized corruption.
Given the growing
seriousness of the problem of poverty, the Church cannot remain
indifferent. Already the poor are her wealth and she must make herself
the representative of the poor. Moreover, it is not only necessary
to reinforce the optionit already is recognized as constitutive
of Christian lifebut this option is the barometer of conversion
for the Church herself. This conversion does not consist in a vague
proclamation. It brings with itself many demands in relation to
the poor and marginalized.
The first of these
demands is being with them and the Church placing itself on their
side. It is not enough to make proclamations: It is necessary to
act decisively, creating structures of evangelization that can bring
about the rise of a pastoral solidarity with the poor. Certainly
it does not consist only of alms to poor countries, but demands
justice in commercial relations, the seeking of alternatives to
the neo-liberal model and even transforming the poor into protagonists
of their own development.
Another concern very present at the Synod has been globalization.
The Church looks favorably upon interdependence when it is guided
by ethical norms of authentic development. This interdependence
can help reduce poverty and promote the greater common good of all.
Globalization at present, however, carries with it a terrible ambiguity:
Once it is not shaped as an expression of world solidarity it becomes
a mechanism of exploitation of some people and nations.
The world until just
recently has been unified. Now it is now bipolar; a globalized neo-liberal
economy prevails, which tends to make an ever deeper abyss between
rich and poor.
It is fundamental
to distinguish between the real need for interdependence and the
free-market ideology of globalization. The ideology of globalization
ends up blaming the poor for their poverty. According to that ideology,
the poor are poor because they are incapable of competing in this
market which in fact, is unjust and only apparently free. Furthermore,
this globalization of the economy is inseparably tied to financial
speculation, which from one day to the next, is capable of throwing
whole nations into misery. The Church must denounce and condemn
the ideology which bears the systematic exclusion of the poorest.
Movement of Peoples
A third great pastoral challenge is presented by migrations. The
present migrations are different from those migrations of the past.
Today's migrations do not result not from free choice, but from
an intricate web of social, economic and political factors, which
forces millions of people to journey with no destination, in search
of a new country.
In truth, these people
are not, properly speaking, migrants, but refugees. When they arrive
they do not find a place of hospitality. At first they are seen
as intruders to be repelled. Together with innumerable others who
are discriminated against for their ethnic and social status, these
refugees must be a special object of the Church's pastoral care.
The Church must emerge as a house for all. In welcoming the migrants
she must not welcome them as problems but as those sent by God,
who carry with them numerous cultural riches.
A fourth big challenge is presented by ecumenism and interfaith
dialogue. Strictly speaking the problem is not found in the religious
differences among the more traditional and institutionalized religions.
Rather, it is found especially in the fundamentalist and progressively
proselytizing tendencies found among the members of new and countless
informal religions. In spite of Synod participants' warning to be
most alert, there are those who defend a more serene attitude.
It is necessary to
recognize that a good part of the members of these informal religions
are ex-members of our churches. This happens, in great part, because
of our failings, including a lack of sensitivity towards the more
pressing economic and other necessities, or the lack of a more profound
and inculturated evangelization.
On the other hand,
it is important to recognize that we have something to learn from
these new religions, particularly in regard to hospitality, and
also to ministerial participation of a greater number of people
and to a sense of solidarity. Although difficult, dialogue with
these religions is not impossible. No matter what, it is always
possible to collaborate in terms of promotion of human beings and
their multiple necessities.
Where the solution lies
These few echoes heard in the speeches of the members of the synod
are already sufficient to help us perceive the theme. The big challenges
are not only noticed, they are analyzed in the light of the gospel
in order to find a solution. In any manner, here as in so many other
aspects analyzed in the previous articles, the Franciscan brothers
and sisters sense a resounding witness of St. Francis: Community
is our wealth; the poor are our treasure; it is necessary to create
a world truly of brothers and sisters, without borders.
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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