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 5 of a series

Echoes 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 marginalized—realities at times seen with a certain distrustfulness in some sectors of the Church—have 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 of society.

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 option—it already is recognized as constitutive of Christian life—but 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.

2. Globalization
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.

4. Proselytizing
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.

(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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