Synod for America – Canadian Bishops Speak

April/May 1998

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More than 200 bishops and cardinals from the Americas were invited to Rome by the Pope to discuss the state of the Church in the Americas. This meeting is part of a series of synods called by Pope John Paul II to prepare for the next millennium. Bishops from Africa have already met, and future synods will be held for the bishops of Europe, Asia, and Oceania before the year 2000...

The time to prepare the Synod for America was very brief, especially if it is compared with the preparation that went into the Synod for Africa in 1994. For the African synod, the lineamenta (outline of topics followed by questions) was distributed four years before the synod met. This document stimulated widespread and extensive consultations and discussions in the local churches. On the other hand, the lineamenta for the American synod was released just 15 months before the synod opened. There was practically no local discussion or consultation with either experts or anyone else...

In terms of preparation and coordination, the Canadian bishops outshone the rest of the synod. The Canadians met a number of times to plan their presentations, and each spoke in the name of the conference on a single topic. As a result, they were able to go into some detail and not duplicate each other's efforts. For example, Bishop Gerald Wiesner from Canada was the only bishop to devote his speech to the topic of women. On the other hand, the U.S. bishops had no one who spoke to the question of third world debts held by United States banks, one of the principal concerns of the Latin American bishops... (Fr. Thomas J. Reese, S.J.)


[On Women]
Bishop Gerald Wiesner, OMI, of Prince George, BC, Vice-President of the Canadian Conf. of Catholic Bishops

Recalling the words of Pope John Paul II in his Letter to Women, Bishop Wiesner said that when seeing women through the eyes of Jesus Christ we find "openness and welcome, respect and honour, acceptance and tenderness."

"Openness and welcome includes a recognition of the fundamental equality of all the baptized. It also includes a just and balanced collaboration in leadership roles and the participation of women as an essential ingredient in the Church's nature as sign and instrument of unity.

"Respect and honour includes recognition of women's own consciousness of their dignity and rights and the awareness of and sensitivity to issues related to inclusion and fundamental equality.

"Acceptance begins with a recognition of the complex reality of women's lives... Tenderness flows out of an encounter with the living Christ and offers the hope of healing alienation, loneliness, hard-heartedness, and polarization."


[On the Ecology]
Archbishop Andréaumond of Sherbrooke, PQ

"Human beings are not primarily over and above all creatures, but among them and in relationship to them, for all living creatures come from the hand of God."

"In being creatures, human beings by their nature relate to other beings. The transcendence that characterizes the relationship of the human with other creatures is comparable to that of the gardener who is responsible for caring for all creation..."

"Our earth is sacred because it comes from God. It is here that the Son of God chose to live. It is here that God is revealed, the One full of goodness who calls each creature into existence. Thus, we are called by God to be open to creativity and interdependence."


[On Globalization]
Archbishop Henri Goudreault, OMI, of Grouard-McLennan, AB

"The globalization of the economy by multinational corporations is now a reality. Two hundred multinational corporations control more than a quarter of the world's economy, and the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) currently being negotiated will give these corporations even greater freedom and power."

Archbishop Goudreault said the price being paid for this involves heavy costs in employment, the environment, natural and human resources, and culture.

In concluding his presentation, the Archbishop listed five possible actions that could be taken on this question:

  1. educate people about the social teachings of the Church;
  2. governments to cease being puppets in the hands of the financial giants;
  3. encourage nongovernmental organizations such as the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development & Peace to use their bargaining force;
  4. encourage strong labour unions that will demand humane working conditions; and
  5. in the spirit of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, consider the partial or total forgiveness of the debts of poor countries.


[On the Gospel and Culture]
Bishop Raymond J. Lahey of St. George's, NF

"The gospel must be preached not only in language that is faithful, but also in a language that can be heard." Bishop Lahey also said that the Church must engage in dialogue with society in its own culture or face being marginalized and meaningless.

"The gospel demands that the Church today must dialogue with those estranged from it." Such dialogue includes: women – on their role in the Church and society; homosexual persons – on discrimination and sensitivity toward them; youth – on the values they hold; environmentalists – on the use of creation and population issues; the pro-choice movement – on freedom of conscience; New Age movements; those in fractured families and broken marriages; and other similar groups.

"Dialogue involves risk and will not be easy," he said. "But given the Church's marginalization, there is greater risk in no dialogue. To be faithful to the gospel is not to be fearful for it."


[On Solidarity]
Archbishop Roger Ébacher of Gatineau-Hull, PQ

"Archbishop Ébacher proposed the establishment of a forum for the Americas to develop solidarity needed for our time."

Such a forum, he said, would provide the means to discuss both the social and theological dimensions of the social and economic situation, popularize that analysis in our respective countries, as well as develop joint statements on questions facing the peoples of the American continent.

The Archbishop noted that the present economic system is fed by "personal and private interest, with the ultimate result unbridled competition" which he called "the antithesis of solidarity." This, he said, leads to the continuation of "the distressing situation of misery resulting from sinful structures, which lead to the rich becoming richer and the poor poorer."

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