Synod for America

April/May 1998

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Called from all the nations of America to gather with the successor of Peter for this special synod, we are grateful for this opportunity of prayer, study and reflection... (3) We believe that we are one community; and although America comprises many nations, cultures and languages, there is so much that links us together and so many ways in which each of us affects the lives of our neighbours. This historic gathering... has impelled us to seek the answers to the problems and concerns of our lands... (4)

To you, the families both in the North and in the South. We are conscious of the burdens borne by poor families everywhere who find opportunities to improve their lives denied them; conscious, too, of the stresses which modern life brings even to families of means, stresses which hamper the best attempts to live the Christian life... We grieve over the brokenness of so many families in all classes... (16)

To you single parents, who assume the responsibility of raising children in the Christian life without the companionship and support of a spouse, we extend the encouragement of the family of faith. (16)

To you the young men and women who search for God in today's world; to the young who are deprived of opportunity to earn a living and begin a family; to the youth whose idealism has been so diminished by an excessive consumerism and to all you young people who long for a sense of God's loving presence in your lives... To all of you we offer the renewed promise of God's love in the community of the Church... (17)

To you the children of the streets. What you, the children of God, suffer should happen to no one. Sometimes you may not even realize that you are abandoned, abused, exploited and entangled in a life of crime. Some of you are even living under the threat of murder by those who should shield you from harm. We call on people of good will to help rescue you... (18)

To you immigrants who find yourselves unwelcome in the lands where you have moved..., the Church will not cease to stand by you with every kind of service. To seasonal workers... We unite ourselves in solidarity with you in your quest for just working conditions... (5)

To you minorities who are victims of prejudice, we sympathize with the frustration you suffer on account of discrimination, the pain imposed on you by the hostility of others... You are created in God's image... You have a right to be accorded the dignity you have in the eyes of God. (20)

To you the Aboriginal and Indigenous peoples of America, who have suffered so much these past five centuries at the hands of the greedy and violent and who even today enjoy so little of the abundance our lands have produced... We pledge ourselves to honour your culture and to support you in preserving your heritage. (21)

To you our brothers and sisters of African heritage, whose ancestors came to America in bondage as slaves. The wounds of those terrible centuries of slavery still sting the soul. We pledge ourselves to continue to work with you so that you may enjoy your full dignity as children of God and so that you may always feel welcome in our churches and communities of faith. (22)

To you who live alone... particularly the elderly, the homebound, the sick and the forsaken. The church is your home, and we in the church are your brothers and sisters... (23)

To you men and women who seek integrity of life and you who long to comprehend its meaning... Meet Jesus who shares his Spirit with us, who transforms us in holiness and gives meaning to history... (24)

Of all the concerns of God's people the cry of the poor has been heard with a special attention. Not a single episcopal conference in America has failed to speak clearly and with deep emotion about the quest for justice for our brothers and sisters whose lives and human dignity are challenged by poverty and want. These concerns have their origins not only in the personal sinfulness of individuals but also in "the structures of sin" to which personal sin can give rise and which in turn reinforce personal sin and widen its impact. (25)

In the North, we look with dismay and alarm as the gap widens year by year between those who have an abundance and those who have only the barest of resources... (26)

In the South there are regions which suffer conditions of such utter human misery that they cannot be reconciled with the dignity which God has bestowed equally on each of his children...

There are still to be found the sufferings of children who go to bed hungry, of mothers and fathers without work or sustenance, of Indigenous peoples whose homelands and livelihoods are threatened, of thousands without jobs or shelter because of changing and volatile market conditions. (27)

To these woes must be added those caused by abuses in the globalization of the world's culture and economy, those caused by the drug traffic, the diversion of scarce resources into the arms trade, and political and business corruption, which deprives people of the share of material goods intended for or earned by them and to which they have a right. (27)

The burden of external and internal debt... has been a considerable concern during the synod. Even though the international debt is not the sole cause of poverty in many developing countries, it cannot be denied that it has contributed to creating conditions of extreme privation which constitute an urgent challenge to the conscience of humankind. Accordingly, we join the Holy Father in his appeal for the reduction or forgiveness of debts in an effort to give relief to the people of some of the world's poorest nations...

Any reduction of the debt must truly result in benefit to the poor. Measures must be taken to avoid the causes – whatever they may be – that created the debt... (28)

We call on you, the faithful... to be the evangelists of the new millennium... to witness to your faith by your lives of holiness, by your kindness to all, your charity toward those in need and your solidarity with all the oppressed... (30)

The New Evangelization

The new evangelization requires cultures that are open to faith in God where believers can contribute to society... As the Church lives out the gospel, in proclaiming the kingdom of God, in advocating justice for the poor, and in defending human life and dignity, she faces many obstacles. In some places... consecrated and lay people are penalized and slandered, intimidated and even slain for their gospel defense of the poor. In still other places, a new, aggressive secularism would deny a voice to people of faith in the public arena and demean the enormous contribution of the Church to public life. Accordingly, we appeal to the faithful in public life and to people of good will who have influence on public opinion to stand with us in defense of the gospel of life against abortion and euthanasia. We call on them to stand with us against anti-religious prejudice and to support the contributions of the Church and other communities of faith to the common good... (34)

Jesus Christ Our Hope (1 Timothy 1:1)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we have described the joys and sorrows, the hopes and the needs of America. In the face of all the pain and suffering in the world... we say to you: Jesus Christ has overcome the world... His resurrection fills us with hope; his presence on our journey fills us with courage. We say to you, as the Holy Father tells us all so often: Do not be afraid. The Lord is with you on the way, go forth to meet him. (35)

And where shall we meet him? We can find him dwelling within us if only we will open our hearts to the challenge of his love. We can find him in our neighbour, especially in the poor and the hungry and those in want. We can meet him personally whenever two or three of us gather together in his name. We can discover him in his word and in the wonder of his world. We encounter him in the Sacraments, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which is the Sacrament of his mercy. Most perfectly we encounter him in the Eucharist, where he wills to feed us with his own body and blood... (36)

If we come to this encounter with the risen Jesus... we shall find ourselves changed... This change of heart will not only touch our individual lives, but it will challenge our society, the Church herself, us as pastors and all the world... This conversion will touch the lives of the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak. It will remind the politicians of their responsibility to foster the common good; and it will challenge the economists to find a way to solve the material inequalities of our societies. (37)

If we come with courage to this encounter with Jesus Christ..., we shall find ourselves drawn to a deeper relationship of love and cooperation among ourselves as individuals and in the communities of which we are a part... (38)

The personal encounter with Jesus Christ leads to solidarity... Solidarity in its completeness is the sharing of what we are, what we believe and what we have... Solidarity impels us to look out for each other as brothers and sisters... It calls us to love each other and to share with each other. In the light of solidarity, wars, conflicts, the arms races have no place on this planet created by a loving God. (39)

This is the message of the special synod for America. It is a message that calls on each of us to continue to work together to advance the kingdom of God among the nations of America...

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