a Brazilian Franciscan
By Father Antonio
Moser, O.F.M., S.T.D.
translated from Portuguese by Fred Radtke, O.F.M..
Last of six parts
The Synod for America
ended officially December 12. In the end the bishops wanted to send
a message, proclaiming to all that it is Jesus Christalive,
among us and full of love for uswho gives us the strength
to live as sons and daughters of God. The bishops wanted also to
share with the people of God what they themselves discovered: joys,
concerns, challenges and hopes.
Joys and concerns
The motive for joy
is that millions of Catholicswith devotion to the Lord, his
Mother, and to the Churchremain faithful to Christian practice.
Families in the midst of many difficulties place themselves at the
service of life. They seek Christian education of children. And
there are other causes for joy: a multitude of active laypeople;
women who have exercised an important role in the construction and
evangelization of a New world; children, youth, bishops priests,
men and women of religious life; seminarians, parishes and communities
of faith, martyrs both known and unknown. All act, in their own
way, in benefit of the Kingdom and the building up of the Body of
Christ in this New World.
Yet the Church of
the Americas knows not only joys. She carries with herself a series
of concerns: The affliction of so many families that break up and
the many that come up against poverty or other difficulties coming
from modern life; youth, especially the poor and migrants, minors
of street, seasonal workers "who struggle in order to take their
place at the table of the rich." There are also the concerns of
the minority groups, victims of discrimination and hostility.
In the midst of these
concerns, three stand out boldly: The situation of indigenous peoples,
the descendants of Africans and the poor. The indigenous and African-Americans
suffered and continue to suffer from injustices that have been forced
on them. The indigenous, because they were exploited for five centuries
by greedy and violent hands, still today do not participate in the
abundant fruit of the earth. The Afro-Americans, continue to suffer
because "the wounds of those terrible centuries of slavery still
cause pain in their souls."
Those who merit greater
emphasis, however, are those afflicted by poverty. Here I quote
and reference the paragraph numbers of the Synod's final document:
"Of all of the concerns of the People of God that echoed in the
hall of this special Synod for America, the cry of the poor was
heard with special attention" (#29). The reference to the poor and
those who suffer necessity is valid as much for those of North American
as well as of South America (#31). Those who live alone, "especially,
the aged, those rejected by their families, the sick and the abandoned"
(#27), complete the already ample list of the new faces of poverty.
In a rather daunting
sentence, the Synod document points out some of the major challenges
for a New Evangelization: "The necessity of witness of faith and
of the saints, of priestly vocations and the consecrated life, which
manifest the activity of the grace of God in the world, missionaries
to concretize a New Evangelization, but in a way that expresses
collaboration between the churches of the North and of the South,
the means of social communication to make a 'new culture' which
preserves and promotes personal and social values, a society open
to the faith and its messengers, those who influence public opinion
that they remain with us in defense of the Gospel of Life, against
abortion and euthanasia...."
The last paragraphs
of the message return to the theme, "Jesus Christ, our hope" (see
1 Tm 1,1). In spite of it all, it is necessary to not lose heart
because Jesus Christ who overcame the world, continues alive and
accompanies us on the journey. We can meet him in our neighbor,
in prayer, in His Word, in the miracle of creation, in the sacraments,
especially in Reconciliation and in the Eucharist. If we go to meet
this Christ, we will be able to nourish our hopes in a new world,
constructed in communion and solidarity.
The Synod's surprises
By way of concluding
this series, I would observe that this Synod brought some surprises.
The first of them appeared early in the title "Synod for America,"
in the singular. It deals with a methodological option: to begin
with what unites in order to overcome the eventual divergences along
the road. A second surprise is found at the level of the themes
assumed in relation to some less peaceful topics. This is the case,
for example, of the basic Christian communities: The accent was
highly positive. It could be said that either basic Christian communities
changed or time has undertaken to show that the benefits far outweigh
the accidental "dangers," rising out of some exaggeration.
could be found in a highly explosive question: the "sects." As we
have seen, some participants' interventions were in the sense of
an alert against the evils resulting from that. But, in the end,
it must be said that a kind of "mea culpa" predominated. There was
an admission that the Church has not been responsive enough in areas
of greater suffering.There was a consequent proposal of investing
more in this direction.
The Synod has ended,
but not the Synodal process. A post-Synod commission was already
named to implement the decisions that were made. The benefits can
only be harvested with time. This is not only in a comprehensive
direction, but even more in a pastoral, practical direction. For
it is the practical pastoral action that makes up the true test
of greater assimilation less than the grand ecclesiastical events.
Those of us within
the Franciscan family feel a special responsibility. It falls to
us, Franciscan brothers and sisters, well within the spirit of our
founder, to be more diligent in putting into practice the exhortations
of our bishops, especially in regards to the poor and the marginalized,
and with a new spirit of ardor towards anyone we must evangelize.
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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