The Working Document of the Special Synod
of the Americas
ENCOUNTER WITH THE LIVING JESUS CHRIST: THE
WAY TO CONVERSION, COMMUNION AND SOLIDARITY IN AMERICA
His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, in his Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio
adveniente, 38 (10 November 1994), voiced his intention to convoke a Special Assembly
of the Synod of Bishops for America. Shortly after this announcement, the Holy Father
appointed a Pre-Synodal Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops for the
Special Assembly for America, composed for the most part by bishops from America. The
General Secretariat immediately began the preparation process for this special synodal
assembly by sending a letter of consultation to all interested parties on the America
continent, that is, the Episcopal Conferences and the Archbishops sui iurisof the
Oriental Churches, as well as to the Departments of the Roman Curia and the Union of
Superiors General, in an effort to arrive at a topic of contemporary importance, universal
interest and particular urgency for treatment at this special synodal assembly. The
results of this consultation were then analyzed and discussed by the Pre-Synodal Council
for the Special Assembly for America and a series of recommendations formulated for
submission to the Holy Father.
Taking into consideration the Council's proposals, the Holy Father subsequently made
the following choice of topic for this Special Assembly: Encounter with the Living
Jesus Christ the Way to Conversion, Communion and Solidarity in America. The topic
formulation intends to respond to the unique set of circumstances within the Church in
America as well as to address the actual state of affairs affecting all the peoples and
cultures on the American continent. In highlighting the centrality of the Living Jesus
Christ as a way towards conversion, communion and solidarity, the Church in America will
be better prepared to celebrate the Great Jubilee Year 2000 and will fulfill more
effectively the new evangelization which offers to all peoples of the continent the
message of salvation.
To present this synodal topic in a general way, the General Secretariat, in
cooperation with the members of the same Pre-Synodal Council and theologians from the
American continent, has drafted the Lineamenta, the first in a series of documents
related to the Special Assembly for America. As its name suggests, the present document is
offered as a broad "outline" on the topic. The sole purpose in providing this
text is to foster a common reflection and prayer on the topic as well as to generate
suggestions and observations. For this reason, a series of Questions appears at the end of
It is the hope that this Lineamenta will result in a rich response in every
part of the Church in America so that the Episcopal Conferences and the Archbishops sui
iuris of the Oriental Churches can have the necessary information to draft their
official responses which will sent to the General Secretariat. The quality and quantity of
the replies will ensure that the Synod Fathers, gathered in Special Assembly, will have
the material needed for a more in-depth treatment of a topic of great importance for the
Church in America.
Consequently, the Lineamenta itself is not part of the agenda of the Special
Assembly. A "working document" or Instrumentum laboris will be drawn up
at a later time on the basis of the official responses coming from the above interested
parties of the American continent and those from the Departments of the Roman Curia and
the Union of Superiors General.
Therefore, the whole Church in America is invited to participate: diocesan and
religious priests, women and men religious, lay men and women, seminaries and faculties of
theology, pastoral councils, Catholic movements and groups, parish communities and all
Church organizations. The more numerous the responses, the more complete and substantial
will be the information for those who are responsible to draw up their official reports.
This will likewise ensure the complete and substantial character of the text of the
Instrumentum laboris, the document which will be the center of attention and discussion
at the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for America.
In preparing a response to the Lineamenta, the following points should be
borne in mind. The number and variety of the questions listed in the final section of the
document have been deliberately chosen to serve as a guide in structuring the reflections
on the topic of the Special Assembly for America. These questions, then, and not the Lineamenta
text, should be the basis of all responses. In this regard, all observations should make
explicit reference to the question addressed. At the same time, each and every question
need not be answered. Depending on individual circumstances, respondents are free to make
a choice of those questions which seem relevant.
On the American continent, responses from Church communities and groups within an
arch/diocese are sent to the local bishop who will make use of such information in
drafting his response. The bishop's response is then forwarded to the episcopal conference
of which he is a member. The submissions from these episcopal bodies, and those from the
Roman Curia and the Union of Superiors General should arrive at the General Secretariat no
later than 1 April 1997. This target date should be kept in mind by all those who wish to
contribute in some manner in this reflection process.
With the publication of the Lineamenta a crucial stage in the preparation of
the Special Assembly begins, a stage which relies upon the cooperation and prayers of
every member of the Church. The mystery of communion teaches that the Church extends
beyond the confines of a given nation and continent--even beyond the world as we know
it--through time into eternity. As the Church in America prepares for this special
celebration of the communion of bishops, She does so in mystical union with the whole
Church. In this spirit She is supported in this period of preparation by the prayers and
good works of all the Church's members, particularly by those of the heavenly community of
American Martyrs and Saints, and as in every endeavour, looks to the Virgin Mary for her
Jan P. Cardinal Schotte, C.I.C.M.
Note: In speaking of the Special Assembly for America--and not of a Pan-American
Assembly or Intercontinental Assembly, no intention is made to overlook the
evident cultural, historic and social differences which characterize North America,
Central America, South America and the Caribbean. Since the purpose of the Special
Assembly of the Synod of Bishops is to treat problems which all the above parts have in
common, a choice was made to refer to "America" as a single, geographic entity,
and to specify in each case--when the context requires--the respective differences.
1. As the end of the Second Millennium of Christianity draws near, the Church is
preparing by various pastoral initiatives, to celebrate with faith and gratitude the Great
Jubilee of the birth of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In this way, She is preparing to
enter the Third Millennium of the Christian era with a renewed commitment to give joyful
witness before the whole world to Her faith and hope. The Pilgrim Church in America also
wants to celebrate Jesus Christ as well as to recall and relive the fundamental, decisive
event of Her history. For all humanity, this is a dramatic and exciting era. Some people
see it as the end of an historical era and the period of labor giving birth to a new
civilization. In this context, it is possible to reflect on how this historical moment
affects the People of God as well as on how the Church in America can participate in the
birth of a new civilization of justice, solidarity and love.
2. In order to promote a renewal of faith and Christian life at this historical
crossroad, bishops--the majority of whom will come from the American continent--will be
called into a Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for America. With an apostolic
spirit they are thereby embracing the proposal first made by the Holy Father, Pope John
Paul II in Santo Domingo, in 1992, at the inauguration of the work of the Fourth General
Conference of the Latin American Episcopate, when he said: "Along these same lines of
pastoral concern for the most disadvantaged social categories, this General Conference
could examine the opportuneness of a meeting in the not too distant future of
representatives of the episcopates of the entire American continent--a meeting which could
be synodal in nature--for increased cooperation between the various particular Churches in
the different areas of pastoral activity and at which, in the context of the new
evangelization and as an expression of episcopal communion, the problems relating to
justice and solidarity among all the nations of America could be faced."(1)
Later, the Pope again treated the subject in the overall program of preparation for the
Jubilee Year 2000, presented to the universal Church in his Apostolic Letter, Tertio
millennio adveniente: "The last General Conference of the Latin American
Episcopate accepted, in agreement with the bishops of North America, the proposal for a
Synod for the Americas on the problems of the new evangelization in both parts of the same
continent, so different in origin and history, and on issues of justice and international
economic relations, in view of the enormous gap between North and South."(2)
The major goals which the Holy Father proposes for the present Special Assembly for
America are the following:
- to foster a new evangelization on the whole continent as an expression of
- to increase solidarity among the various particular Churches in different fields
of pastoral activity; and
- to shed light on the problems of justice and the international economic relations among
the nations of America, considering the enormous imbalances among the North, Central and
South of the continent.
3. This Lineamenta is intended to respond to these goals and gather together the
responses of the various episcopal conferences of America. Above all, it should be stated
that the starting point is Jesus Christ, the Savior and Evangelizer, who offers His
Way at this historical juncture. He invites the person of today, as He invited
Nicodemus, "to be born from above, of water and Spirit, in order to enter into the
kingdom of God" (Jn 3:3-5). At this time, as the People of God in America is
preparing to cross the threshold of the Third Millennium, the Christian faith proclaims
the enduring truth: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that
whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into
the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who
believes in Him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he
has not believed in the name of the only Son of God" (Jn 3:16-18).
Jesus Christ, living today in His Church, accompanies Her as She crosses the threshold
of hope and, as She enters the Third Millennium. He strengthens Her to continue the
mission of proclaiming the Gospel, which for five centuries has borne abundant fruit in
the history of the American continent. With the goal of consolidating and strengthening
the Christian life of peoples and of helping this life reach into all levels of society
and contemporary living on the continent, the Pastors of the People of God want to propose
a new evangelization, which will encourage each person in America to encounter the living Christ.
Jesus invites everyone to conversion, so as to live in communion with the Father,
and to let themselves be transformed by the Spirit into instruments of fraternal
A CONTEMPORARY ENCOUNTER WITH CHRIST WHO DIED AND ROSE AGAIN
JESUS CHRIST, SAVIOR AND EVANGELIZER
4. At the beginning of the Synod's work on the new evangelization in America, it is
essential to keep in mind that Jesus Christ, who died and rose again and who is now living
in His Church, must always be the starting point for every activity. He must also be the
"way" followed in pastoral activity to bring each activity to fulfillment. At
all times, the central role of the person of Jesus Christ must be stressed,
"for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be
saved" (Acts 4:12). From the encounter of each Church member with the living
Jesus Christ will come conversion, communion and solidarity, the basic necessities for
making each one an apostle in the new evangelization.
"As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.... Receive the Holy Spirit" (Jn
20: 21-22). Jesus Christ the Evangelizer calls upon everyone. He evangelizes them and He
sends them forth to evangelize. "From (the) living knowledge of Christ springs the
desire to 'evangelize' and to lead others to the 'yes' of faith in Jesus Christ.
But, at the same time, the need to know this faith better makes itself felt."(3)
What is Jesus Christ saying to the people of America at this moment in history? The
question is not meant to be theoretical, but concrete, that is, it should lead to
practical ways of creating a genuine encounter and dialogue in the faith. Each person in
America is invited to seek this encounter with Christ, as a disciple in search of
truth encounters his Master, or as a person in search of friendship encounters others.
5. The Gospels relate the stories of various men and women and their encounters with
Jesus. Two of John the Baptist's disciples met Jesus because they were responsive to God's
call. They asked Him where He lived, and Jesus welcomed them into His home. He conversed
with them, and in the end they became His disciples (cf. Jn 1:35-51). Nicodemus,
the Jewish magistrate who had doubts about his religion, met Jesus at night. Jesus
revealed to him the nature of His mission, the Father's love for mankind and His identity.
Jesus also invited him to be born again (cf. Jn 3:1-21).
At the same time, Jesus went out Himself to encounter various men and women. He came
upon Zacchaeus, the tax collector, who did not always respect the demands of justice in
his work. Jesus went to eat with him, bringing joy and salvation to his house. Zacchaeus,
his heart touched, promised to pay back fourfold anyone whom he had cheated (cf. Lk
19:1-10). Likewise, Jesus encountered the Samaritan woman, a sinner, at Jacob's well. He
spoke to her about the living water which quenches a person's inner thirst (cf. Jn
6. The men and women of America must also draw near to Christ, not to study Him in an
academic manner nor to look at Him simply as spectators, but to have an encounter with Him
in the circumstances of their own life: in their families; in their work; and in their
aspirations, doubts and weaknesses. If they are able to dialogue with Him and open their
heart to hear the Word of God, these encounters will transform them into His disciples.
This encounter is always with Jesus Christ who died and rose again, with Christ
who "by His incarnation... has in a certain way united Himself with each man. He
worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and
with a human heart He loved. Born of the Virgin Mary, He has truly been made one of us,
like to us in all things except sin."(4) Nothing human is foreign to Him, no
situation of joy or suffering, no situation of poverty or work and no legitimate human
aspiration. He accompanies each person in the journey of life and stands by each person in
personal trials to the point that He identifies Himself with the lowliest. He died on the
cross to free humanity from sin and evil.
Through His cross Christ conquered death--death not simply in the physical sense, but
above all, death in the spiritual sense, death resulting from sin. Through His
resurrection, He lives in eternity with the Father and in time with the Pilgrim Church.
Through His Spirit He gives life, enlightens, guides, consoles, fortifies and saves those
who sincerely draw near to Him in their search for peace and happiness. As on the day of
His resurrection in Jerusalem, Christ is present today in the midst of each Christian
community, saying to it: "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, even so I
send you.... Receive the Holy Spirit" (Jn 20:21-22).
THE CHURCH AND THE NEW EVANGELIZATION
7. Considering that a reflection on the new evangelization in America is the purpose of
this document, what could be more fruitful than a reading of the Gospel of St. Luke which
presents the work of salvation as a journey of salvation and evangelization: Jesus
makes this journey as one sent by the Father and led by the Spirit. The way of salvation
continues through the work of evangelization, which is carried out in history by
the Pilgrim Church. This journey takes place in three stages: the first is the time of
preparation in the Old Testament; the second is the time of fulfillment, which includes
both the life and public ministry of Jesus and the era of the Church in which Christ acts
through His Spirit as the Messiah, who saves and evangelizes; and the third period is the
parousia, the final goal of the history of salvation.
8. It is a way inspired by the Spirit, who spoke through the prophets, who
guided Jesus' steps, and, from the day of Pentecost, guides the Church. Each particular
Church, each community of the Lord's disciples, has its own "pentecost" or
"baptism in the Spirit" (cf. Lk 3:16; Acts 11:16). This holds true for
the communities of Jerusalem (cf. Acts 2:1ff.), Samaria (cf. Acts 8:14-17),
Caesarea (cf. Acts 10:44ff.), Ephesus (cf. Acts 19:6). Saul also had his own
"baptism" to become the apostle Paul (cf. Acts 9:17). In the same way,
the Spirit guides the Christian communities in America, when they gather to listen to the
Word of God and break the bread of the Eucharist, when they pray, when they live in unity
with their Pastors, and, above all, when they fulfil the mission of proclaiming the Good
News to all people.
It is a way which, in accordance with God's plan, does not end. It begins in
Galilee, leads to Jerusalem, reaches Antioch and then Rome. From here, it goes out to the
whole Gentile world. No authority or human power can stop it because its driving force is
the Word of God, which bears fruit through the action of the Spirit in the Church. This
action of the Spirit is not bound by the changing currents of history.
9. It is a contemporary way. Each generation of Christians has its
"today" of salvation and its unique task to fulfill, i.e., a way to be pursued
and a way to live so as to fulfill what took place in the Gospel. Today, the
contemporary Christian is to live in a deeply personal manner the way of faith. Each is to
live celebrating the memorial of salvation, i.e., Jesus Christ who died, rose again and
continues to live in the present moment, and straining towards the future until the Final
Day when salvation will be consummated in the parousia. "Now" is the time
for conversion (cf. Acts 4:29), because "now" is the time in which grace
is at work. "Now" is the time when the Word is building up the community (cf.
Acts 20:32). "Now" is the time to bear witness to the Kingdom of God!
The whole Church in America must be aware of the salvific richness of the
"today" of salvation and the "today" of the commitment flowing from
the gospel. For this, it is necessary to recognize the importance of the Sacrament of
Reconciliation (forgiveness and the action of God's saving mercy), the celebration of the
Eucharist, and attentive listening to the Word. It is also important to be able to grasp
the many manifestations of the Kingdom, which at this moment of history bear witness to
communion and charity: e.g., the fidelity of spouses; the generosity of the laity in
apostolic movements; the sacrifice of priests in their ministry; the selfless dedication
of missionaries, and men and women religious; the heroic, generous efforts of so many
people of good will on behalf of peace and the common good, etc.. In short, it is
necessary to interpret, in the light of the salvific "today", the "signs of
the times" with their positive and negative aspects, so as to achieve a just
re-ordering of the present situation.
10. It is a saving way. The first one to set out on this way was Jesus, the true
Savior. After Jesus, the entire Church, beginning with the apostles, set out as the sign
and instrument of salvation on Her pilgrimage throughout the centuries (cf. Lk
2:11; 4:18-21; 19:9-10; Acts 2:47; 5:31-32; 13:23,26; 16:17; 28:28). The Scriptures
give account of this way of salvation which responds to the innermost desires of all
humanity, Jew and Gentile alike. To these the Son of God offers true salvation, inviting
them to abandon false hopes. In relation to the Jewish world, Jesus Christ is seen as the
fullness of salvation promised by the Father (cf. Lk 4:21; Is 58: 6; 61:1-2;
Lk 7:18-23; Is 26:19; 29:18ff.; 35:5ff), which one receives solely through
God's mercy--and not because of one's merit--as result of the acknowledgement of one's sin
(cf. Lk 13:1-9; 14:1-24; 15:11-31; 17:10; Acts 2:38). In response to the
Gentiles' desire for salvation, Jesus presents Himself as the true soter, the
"Savior", because He is salvation also for them (cf. Acts 2:39; 28:28).
As in the time of St. Paul in the areopagus of Athens or in the Roman forum,
there is also today an abundance of idols and divinities, a plethora of masters,
gurus, sects, obscure movements and secular wisdom, all of which promise people a sure
plan for happiness and a utopia. In light of this situation, it is essential to recall
constantly for people that "there is no other name under heaven given among men by
which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12), except the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
11. The salvation which Christ's way offers is fundamental and universal,
because it forgives and wipes away the sins of all those who receive it with a sincere
heart (cf. Lk 1:77; 3:3; 4:18; 24:47; Acts 2:38; 5:31; 10:43; 13:38;
26:17-18). Salvation is a liberation from the most fundamental of all evils--sin. It finds
its expression in a person's commitment to this liberation and a consequent just manner of
acting.(5) Therefore, Jesus sets out on His way of salvation, presenting Himself as the
messenger of Yahweh's year of favor, granting forgiveness of sin, delivering people from
demons, proclaiming the Good News to the poor, freeing prisoners (cf. Lk 4:16-21)
and performing other signs which proclaim the final liberation from all suffering and
death (cf. Lk 7:18-23; 21:28).
Today also, the Holy Spirit, who guided Jesus' steps, is the first evangelizer
in the new People of God, working to gather those who have never received the Gospel
message and those who have left the Christian faith.(6) Jesus continues to offer salvation
through the Spirit as the Church goes along Her way. The Church's mission in
service to this salvific way of Jesus is to take the salvation which She has received,
bear witness to it and offer it to people. This iter salutis, or "way of
salvation", which the Church offers in Her evangelizing work can be summed
up--according to Acts 2:37ff--in the following sequence: receive the Word, be converted,
believe, be baptized, receive forgiveness of sins and, later, the gift of the Spirit.
12. The Word of God is the ordinary way by which the Church invites people to
salvation. It is the word of grace and salvation, a powerful word, but its force depends
on the manner in which it is received in the heart of the one who hears it (cf. Lk
8:4-15). To receive it, one must be converted (cf. Lk 10:13-16;11:29- 32),
above all, from unbelief (cf. Acts 2:38-40) and idolatry (cf. Acts 17:30; 26:20),
and turn to God the Father through Jesus in the Spirit. Today, unbelief-- under forms of
secularism, religious indifferentism and false ideological and political messianisms--is
widespread among the people of North, Central and South America. Idolatry masks itself
under the guise of the "worship" of new "golden calves" such as money,
wealth, power, drugs, sensuality, etc..
The Good News is the source of salvation for those who receive it in faith, as seen in
many examples from salvation history (cf. Heb 11:38; Lk 1:37- 38,45,48).
"To be human, man's response to God by faith must be free, and... therefore, nobody
is to be forced to embrace the faith against his will. The act of faith is of its very
nature a free act."(7) Where all people are called to make this free act of faith,
Jesus shows a particular concern for those in need. In the universal call to salvation, it
is the poor, the sick and the marginalized who have a special place. The Lord offers to
all people, and in a special way to "the least" of His brothers and sisters, a
salvation which is complete, i.e., touching every human need--physical and spiritual,
earthly and transcendent.
In His earthly life, Jesus work was limited to the Holy Land, but its application was
universal in scope. He came to save a sinful humanity (cf. Lk 5:31ff.). In being
Son of God, He is also, through the mystery of His incarnation, the Son of Man. This makes
Him a brother to every human being, since He shares all things in the human condition
except sin. For this reason, His redemptive work is universal (cf. Lk 2:14,30-32).
As the Church makes Her way in the world, the risen Lord, present through His Spirit,
offers the Good News to all through the witness of His disciples (cf. Acts 4:33).
It is important to take into consideration the universal nature of the mission within
each particular Church, i.e., the mission "ad gentes", in other words,
the mission to those to whom the Gospel has not yet been proclaimed, and also the mission
among the baptized, who have become lukewarm in their Christian life or who have left the
Catholic Church. This mission "ad gentes" must seek to meet the new
situations of contemporary society where Christ is not mentioned, i.e., today's new areopagus
of which Pope John Paul II speaks in his Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, the areopagus
of the mass media, the areopagus of culture and science, art, the intellectual
life, entertainment, sports and politics.(8)
MARY, EVANGELIZED AND EVANGELIZER
13. Mary is the paradigm in the way of evangelization, because in her is the fullness
of grace. Through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, God offers her the mission of
divine motherhood, while preserving her virginity (cf. Lk 1:30- 35). With the
perfect obedience of faith, Mary offers her humble and generous 'yes' to God (cf. Lk
1:38) and lets herself be fully evangelized, welcoming the Word of God, first in her heart
and then in her womb.(9) In turn, she becomes the first evangelizer because through her
the Savior offers Himself to all: to Elizabeth and her son John the Baptist (cf. Lk
1:41), to the shepherds (cf. Lk 2:16-20), to the Magi (cf. Mt 1:10-11), to
Simeon and the prophetess Anna (cf. Lk 2:27-38) and to the many people of good will
who drew near to Him during His public ministry. On Calvary, from the hands of her dying
Son, Mary, the New Eve and the Mother of the Church, receives all humanity in the person
of the beloved disciple (cf. Jn 19:25-27). Since that day, Mary has always been
present in the life of the Church.
The Mother of the Redeemer has also been present among the People of God in America
from the very beginning of the first evangelization, but in a special manner from 1531
when, in the apparition to Juan Diego on Tepeyac hill, she offered her maternal protection
under the title of Guadalupe to all the people of the American continent. Under many other
titles the Virgin Mary is venerated as the Mother of God and Mother of All Peoples in the
different countries and regions, where the faithful manifest through their Marian devotion
their unmistakable membership in the Catholic Church. For this reason, Pope John Paul II
gave her the titles, "Star of the First Evangelization" and "Star of the
New Evangelization.(10) Today, as at Bethlehem, Cana and Calvary, Mary, the Star of
Evangelization in America, continues by her presence to sustain the work of proclaiming
Jesus Christ, the Savior of humankind.
14. The Spirit who transformed Mary into the first one evangelized and the first
evangelizer is the same Spirit of the Lord who accompanied her Son at the beginning of His
public ministry in Galilee: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has
anointed me to preach the good news to the poor..." (Lk 4:16- 21). Today also,
the Holy Spirit is the principal evangelizer who inspires the Church in America to sing
with Mary the Magnificat, her "Song of Praise", once again confirming
that it is impossible to separate the truth about the God who saves from the manifestation
of his preferential love for the poor and lowly.(11) On the way towards the Great Jubilee
Year 2000, the Virgin Mary will be a model of conversion, communion and solidarity for the
Church in America, so that the saving activity of her Son may reach all on the continent.
For this reason, in announcing the celebration of the Great Jubilee of the Third
Millennium, John Paul II chose to entrust this undertaking of the whole Church to the
heavenly intercession of Mary, the Star who guides Christians to their encounter with the
JESUS CHRIST, THE WAY TO CONVERSION
PERSONAL AND SOCIAL CONVERSION
15. "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe
in the Gospel" (Mk 1:15). Thus Jesus began His messianic mission, announcing
the fulfillment of the time of promise and inviting His hearers to repent. Since
Pentecost, the kerygma of the apostles has been fulfilled in the proclamation of
Christ, who died and rose again as the sole Savior of Humanity, inviting people to be
converted and believe in Him (cf. Acts 3:19-20,26). The encounter with the risen
Lord must lead to a profound change of heart and a constant renewal of life, aimed at an
ever more perfect configuration with Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life. Such a
conversion is a gift of God, which is liberation from sin in all its forms. This
conversion introduces a person into the mystery of Christ the Redeemer. The Apostle to the
Gentiles sums up Jesus Christ's apostolic mission, explaining the cosmic dimension of His
ministry of reconciliation, as Pope John Paul II reminds us in his Post-Synodal Apostolic
Exhortation Reconciliatio et paenitentia: "But it is once more Saint Paul who
enables us to broaden our vision of Christ's work to cosmic dimensions, when he writes
that in Christ, the Father has reconciled to Himself all creatures, those in heaven and
those on earth (cf. Col 1:20).(13)
As the Great Jubilee of the Third Millennium draws near, Christ offers us the treasures
of His redemptive blood and His grace. Thus, conversion is a prior demand for forgiveness
of sins and the transmission of divine grace. Today, Christ also addresses all His
disciples in America, saying to them: "Repent, and believe in the Gospel" (Mk
16. How are we to understand this conversion? In his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation
Reconciliatio et paenitentia, Pope John Paul II says: "The term and the very
concept of penance are very complex... Penance means the inmost change of heart under the
influence of the word of God and in the perspective of the Kingdom.... Penance is a
conversion that passes from the heart to deeds, and then to the Christian's whole
Conversion, then, is not some isolated act but a constant process in the life of a
Christian. It endures throughout life. It is not an act affecting only individual persons,
but also groups, institutions and social structures in that they are created and directed
by free and responsible individuals. Furthermore, conversion is reconciliation with God,
with oneself and with others, and it presupposes overcoming the basic rupture which is
In preparing to celebrate the Great Jubilee Year 2000, the Holy Father invites all the
members of the People of God to make a sincere examination of conscience, which is the
first step towards genuine conversion: "On the threshold of the new Millennium,
Christians need to place themselves humbly before the Lord and examine themselves on the
responsibility which they too have for the evils of our day."(15)
LIGHTS AND SHADOWS
17. From the pastoral viewpoint, there are many elements which favor conversion and
which act as leaven for reconciliation with God and with one's brothers and sisters. Signs
point to a religious awakening among people-- especially among the
young--exemplified in a thirst for prayer and contemplation. In this regard, popular piety
continues to be strong, manifesting itself in the everyday practice of religion, which is
capable of leading people to discover the core of the Christian mystery. Proofs can be
seen in the faithful's participation in the sacraments, especially baptism, Eucharist and
matrimony, which are oftentimes also occasions for family and social gatherings. This
religious awakening is further manifested in the worship of Christ, invoking Him under His
diverse titles and commemorating various mysteries in His life. Many times these devotions
are accompanied by pilgrimages to shrines, often in response to vows and promises.
Similarly, one can perceive a strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin, Star of the
Evangelization of America--as John Paul II has called her--not only under her title of
Guadalupe, but also under so many other titles by which she is venerated in each country
and in almost every region. No less important is devotion to the Saints of America and
those of the universal Church. Other signs bearing witness to this religious awakening are
seen in the faithful's affection and adherence to the Vicar of Christ, the Pope, their
obedience and respect for the bishops and priests, and the countless traditions and
actions by which the faithful express and manifest their faith.
Still other signs preparing the way for an encounter with God and one's brothers and
sisters are: involvement in programs to achieve peace, pro-life activity, solidarity with
those on the periphery of society, with those suffering every type of infirmity
(particularly AIDS) or with those who have fallen into drug abuse (an ever increasing
number today), and concern for the whole of creation, manifested in a special attention to
18. Despite these lights, however, there are shadows which need to be dispelled by
conversion to the faith.(16) Indeed, in the piety of the people of America there are
oftentimes many elements at odds with Christianity. These elements occasionally lead to a
syncretism constructed on the basis of popular beliefs, or, in some cases, they cause
believers to become disoriented and easily led astray by sects or para-religious
The societies of North, Central and South America show signs of a materialistic and
consumer style of life. This materialism, however, instead of bestowing happiness,
produces a great lack of satisfaction. Today, many people motivated simply by the desire
for possessions and exploitation of material resources, experience an inner emptiness,
which confirms the words of St Augustine, "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and
our hearts are restless until they rest in you."(17) Such a "restlessness"
present in every person illustrates the universal search for meaning in human existence,
which finds its raison d'etre only in Jesus Christ, the revelation of the Father in
the Spirit. Furthermore, we must recall that this materialism is accompanied by an ever
more widespread mentality which rejects life--before birth or in its final stages--and a
growing recourse to violence and death.
A secular mentality can also be detected in the matter of religion. Such an attitude is
gradually leading people to moral relativism or religious indifference. In his Apostolic
Letter Tertio millennio adveniente, Pope John Paul II points out this aspect as one
of the areas which must be included in the examination of conscience in preparation for
the Jubilee Year 2000: "How can we remain silent, for example, about the religious
indifference which causes many people today to live as if God did not exist, or to be
content with a vague religiosity, incapable of coming to grips with the question of truth
and requirement of consistency?"(18)
No less important is the influence of the above factors on priestly vocations and on
the life and ministry of priests.(19) The result is a lack of vocations and defections
from the priesthood. Thus, many communities are deprived of the celebration of the Mass
which is sometimes replaced by celebrations of the Word with the distribution of the
Eucharist by extraordinary ministers or permanent deacons.
19. The increasing religious indifference leads to the loss of the sense of God
and of His holiness, which, in turn, is translated into a loss of a sense of the sacred,
of mystery and of the capacity for wonder. These are human dispositions which predispose a
person to dialogue and to an encounter with God. Such indifference almost inevitably leads
to a false moral autonomy and a secularistic life-style which excludes God. The loss of
the sense of God is followed by a loss of the sense of sin, which has its roots in
the moral conscience of the individual. This is a great obstacle to conversion.
Sin, as the biblical sources reveal, is most of all a rupture with God, disobedience to
His holy law (cf. Gn 3:1ff.; Rom 7:7-25). However, it is also a rupture and
division among brothers (cf. Gn 4:1-16). In order for a change of heart to take
place, there must be a sensitivity to sin. "To acknowledge one's sin, indeed... to
recognize oneself as being a sinner, capable of sin and inclined to commit sin, is the
essential first step in returning to God.... In effect, to become reconciled with God
presupposes and includes... doing penance in the fullest sense of the term: repenting,
showing this repentance, adopting a real attitude of repentance."(20)
In a letter addressed to the Bishops of the United States, Pius XII alerted the Pastors
of the Church in these prophetic words: "The greatest sin of the century is the loss
of the sense of sin."(21) In the same vein, in his Angelus talk, 14 March
1982, Pope John Paul II said: "Have we got a correct idea of conscience?... Does not
the modern man live under the threat of an eclipse of conscience? Of a dulling of, or an
'anesthetization' of conscience?"(22)
In some areas, the infrequent practice of the sacrament of Penance is the
logical consequence of this twofold loss--the loss of the sense of God and of the sense of
THOSE WHO WORK FOR CONVERSION
20. Conversion is a gift which comes from God, who is "rich in mercy"
(Eph 2:4). This mercy is offered to persons as a work of His love in Jesus Christ,
the mediator of forgiveness and grace. "For God so loved the world that He gave His
only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life" (Jn
3:16). Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, seeks the lost sheep and gives His life for
His flock. He Himself offers a person the many ways of conversion and reconciliation. He
is our reconciliation, and therefore Saint Paul exclaims: "...All this is from God,
who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;
that is, God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses
against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation" (2 Cor
21. The Church, which continues Christ's salvific work, offers forgiveness and
reconciliation. "Everything that the Son of God did and taught for the reconciliation
of the world, we know not only through the history of His past actions, but we also sense
them in the efficacy of that which He realizes in the present."(23) The Church
invites all in America to conversion in celebrating Her liturgical acts (above all in
celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation), in announcing the Word of the Lord, in
praying, in promoting the unity of Her members, in fostering solidarity and in bearing
witness to the love of God.
The bishops, as the successors of the Apostles, are those who principally
continue the mission of the Good Shepherd. They proclaim to all the goodness and
forgiveness of God and propose the message of fraternal reconciliation to the members of
the particular Church, to brothers and sisters of other confessions and to all people of
good will. Together with the bishops, all members of the People of God, priests, men
and women religious, and the laity, according to their ministry and charism and
through their prayer, work, action and witness, are called to cooperate in this pastoral
mission through continual inner renewal and reconciliation among people.
AREAS FOR CONVERSION
22. Just as personal sin has its unavoidable consequences in society, it must also be
kept in mind that personal conversion has its own effects on society. In this sense,
attention should be given to the areas of reconciliation and conversion in the life of
A primary area for reconciliation and conversion bears the simple yet meaningful name
"Christian life", that is, the life of prayer, the life of grace,
participation in the liturgy and the sacraments (above all in the sacraments of Eucharist
and Penance), witness and the dedication to apostolic work. The privileged means for
increasing Christian life has always been, and still is, catechesis considered in
its integral sense. This includes--as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches--the
profession of faith, the life of faith (the Commandments) and the prayer of the
believer.(24) The following areas of society can be sites to achieve reconciliation and
fellowship: the family, the parish, religious communities and lay movements, the
particular Church in itself and in its relations with other particular Churches, and the
social settings of one's country and its dealings with other nations.
23. Another area for conversion, in which a person can and should work tirelessly,
concerns human life issues. Promoting a mentality which welcomes and esteems every human
life, and working to help achieve repect for human life in all its stages, is an urgent
duty in light of the "culture of death" which can be found under various forms
in society. Formation in positive attitudes towards human life begins in the home, but
this formation must be continued in the parish, the school, the university and in various
other areas of society.
As Pope John Paul II recalls in his Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, the
promotion of human life, from the point of view of the faith, has a twofold dimension,
that of respect for one's neighbor and gratitude to God: "The commandment 'You shall
not kill' thus establishes the point of departure for the start of true freedom. It leads
us to promote life actively, and to develop particular ways of thinking and acting which
serve life. In this way, we exercise our responsibility towards the persons entrusted to
us and we show, in deeds and truth, our gratitude to God for the great gift of
24. Another area for conversion is that of the means of social communication and
entertainment. This is one of the most compelling challenges, demanding an adequate
pastoral response on the Church's part. There is an urgent need to teach people to
exercise Christian responsibility in their use of these means, which are indeed wonderful
but can at times have a negative influence. People should also be taught to find ways to
employ them as valuable instruments for knowing and proclaiming the Word of God. Here too,
Christ's invitation to an interior change of heart and attitude is present. Although the
media are a good means for formation and information, they are frequently manipulated for
"disinformation" and "deformation" in sowing a materialistic,
hedonistic mentality which emphasizes wealth, power, egoism, violence and sensuality.
Furthermore, the promotion in the media of certain lifestyles is an attack on family
values and the faith, and frequently leads to an indiscriminate, unconscious acceptance of
such models, thus causing a genuine invasion of culture. On the other hand, as Internet
or the "information highway" clearly illustrates, telecommunications is opening
for the human family--and for the Gospel as well--new fields and horizons of
participation, communication and witness.
25. The field of social structures is another area for conversion. Certain
economic systems and policies exist which control the commercial market and affect the
financial matter of loans and interests, generating in some cases an enormous debt for
nations and impeding the development of peoples. There are also certain types of economic
aid dependent on the ideologies of small political groups, various people in power and
nations which are not always governed by the criteria of equity and solidarity, but rather
by selfish interests. Such conditions call for conversion, especially as they relate to
the economic inequality between the northern and southern areas of the continent. The
situation calls out to faith and to conscience--both human and Christian--for a response.
In regard to this aspect, one must ask if there is an adequate diffusion of the Church's
social doctrine among Christians, and, above all, if its teaching is being applied to
the many social problems of the American continent, North, Central and South America
alike. This is a great challenge for the Church in America. She is called to translate
into action and concrete initiatives the commandment of love of neighbor and the shining
testimony of Christ, who identified Himself with the poor, the sick, the naked, strangers,
prisoners, or to put it briefly, with the least of His brethren (cf. Mt 25:31 ff.).
26. Furthermore, ecumenism is another field open to reconciliation. Indeed, as
the Second Vatican Council points out in the Decree Unitatis redintegratio,
"there can be no ecumenism worthy of the name without interior conversion."(26)
The practice of ecumenism begins--as the above-mentioned council decree recalls--with a
renewal of the whole Church. This "continual reformation of which She (the Church)
has need, insofar as She is an institution of men.... therefore has notable ecumenical
importance."(27) The ecumenical movement has brought about very positive experiences
which, according to the invitation of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, promote the
following: prayer in common with our Christian brothers and sisters, especially in the
celebration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity; respectful dialogue to gain a
better mutual understanding between the Christian brethren and members of the Catholic
Church; ecumenical formation of Pastors so that, in the above-mentioned ecumenical
dialogue, the doctrine of the faith may be explained clearly and firmly, but at the same
time, with charity and humility.(28) These and other initiatives contribute in a great
degree to building the unity for which Christ asked the Father as a gift: "That they
may all be one... so that the world may believe" (Jn 17:21).
PARTICULAR APPEALS FOR CONVERSION IN AMERICA
27. In the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et paenitentia, Pope
John Paul II in 1984 pointed out the existence of many divisions among people in our time.
He spoke of a world fragmented by growing inequalities among groups, social classes and
nations, by ideological antagonism, by the conflict of economic interests and political
polarization, by various forms of racial, cultural or religious discrimination, by
violence and terrorism, and by the inequitable distribution of the world's resources and
cultural benefits, based on a social organization in which the gap in the human conditions
of the rich and poor is becoming ever larger. In this context, the Holy Father noted that
such a situation, in some manner, has an effect on the Church: "Over and above the
divisions between the Christian Communions... the Church today is experiencing within
Herself sporadic divisions among Her own members, divisions caused by differing views or
options, in the doctrinal and pastoral field."(29)
28. There is on the American Continent the alarming existence of someelements of
division which are further calls for conversion and reconciliation, at the individual
and social level:
- various forms of racial, cultural and religious discrimination. This reality is coupled
with a de-humanizing tendency spread by the media, exalting violence, eroticism, and a
mentality undermining the human and evangelical values of the peoples of America.
- the lack of religious formation in many of the faithful. This is the cause of division
because many of them are leaving the one flock to take advantage of the deceptive offers
of sects, atheistic ideologies, human messiahs, etc.
- the tensions between Christians which put in relief differences in doctrinal matters and
disagreements over choices in the pastoral and disciplinary field. A crisis of obedience
and faith in the Church's Magisterium is spreading. In some cases, there are differences
between religious and bishops, between religious and diocesan clergy, and sometimes
between some members of the clergy and the diocesan bishop.
- in the social field, a troublesome economic inequality between people and social
classes. This exists not only within a given country, but also between countries in
different parts of the continent: North, South and Central.
These and other aspects were specially treated at a meeting convoked by the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Guadalajara, Mexico, 6-10 May 1996. During
this meeting the doctrinal commissions of the episcopal conferences of Latin America
reflected on some theological topics which arose in conjunction with pastoral situations
in the participating countries, in an ongoing search for helpful criteria in promoting the
unity based on the truth of revelation and dogma.(30)
JESUS CHRIST, THE WAY TO COMMUNION
COMMUNION WITH JESUS CHRIST, LIVING IN THE CHURCH
29. The encounter with the living Jesus Christ always leads to conversion and
reconciliation with God and neighbour. It culminates in the communion of life with Him,
and bears fruit in solidarity with those most in need. As the Pilgrim People of God in
America prepares to undertake the work of the new evangelization in order to celebrate the
Jubilee Year 2000, it will be necessary to evaluate how Christians are living the
communion desired by Christ, what are the obstacles to it, and what are the demands and
challenges raised by Christ's call to communion in charity.
Shortly before His passion and death, at the time of institution of the Eucharist and
the priesthood, Jesus prayed to His Father for communion between the disciples and
Himself. "As thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so
that the world may believe that thou has sent me" (Jn 17:21-26). He Himself
expressed this reality so beautifully in the parable of the vine and the branches,
indicating the trinitarian dimension of communion: the Father, the vinedresser, plants and
cultivates the vine--Christ--whose branches are the members of the Church. As the branches
must remain united to the vine in order to bear abundant fruit, so too must Christians
remain in Christ, keeping His Word and observing His commandments, especially the
commandment of fraternal love. The vine, which is the image of the Church, bears its fruit
in charity through the action of the Holy Spirit at work in Her (cf. Jn
Another image employed by Sacred Scripture to express the communion of life with Christ
in His Church is that of the body. The risen Christ, Head of the Church which is His Body,
identifies mystically with His members (cf. 1 Cor 12:12-29).(32) Through the action
of the Holy Spirit, the mystery of His death and resurrection is made
present in the everyday life of the Church, not only as a whole, but also in each of Her
members, because whatever is done for the least of His brothers--the hungry, the naked,
the sick, the homeless, stranger and prisoners--is done to Him (cf. Mt 25:34-46).
30. Today in America, the face of the suffering and crucified Christ takes on
the features of various persons: the poor who crowd immense cities, the unemployed,
migrants, those marginalized for various reasons, the unborn, street children, children
without opportunity for an education, young people without work and guidance, women who
are underpaid or exploited, the elderly who are abandoned, prisoners, and the sick,
especially those suffering from AIDS. The face of Christ can also be seen in the
marginalized ethnic minorities, in indigenous peoples and African-Americans, in the
farmers and in those who live in the shanty-towns in the peripheries of the big cities in
the North, South and Central regions of the continent.
31. At the same time, however, one can also say that in the Christian communities of
America the face of the risen Christ shines forth. His Spirit is producing many
signs of new life, which conquers sin, death and the powers of evil. Witness to this fact
can be seen in the holiness of so many members of the Church, frequently anonymous:
pastors who are faithful to their mission; men and women religious who offer the oblation
of their lives consecrated to God and to the service of their brethren, especially those
who are most neglected; martyrs and witnesses to the faith; the many missionaries from the
North who are going to proclaim the Gospel among their brothers and sisters in Central and
South America, as well as priests, religious and laity from Central and South America who
work among their brothers and sisters in the North; spouses who are faithful to their
marriage vows and are generous in their commitment to the formation of their children;
many young people who participate in the apostolate and voluntary services as seen in
their joyful, generous response to the frequent gatherings convoked by the Holy Father;
lay people who work as volunteers in organizations which serve those most in need, etc..
Communion is a work of the Trinity. It is desired by the Father, fulfilled by Christ in
the Holy Spirit and continued in the Church as a mystical reality. It is a task to be
developed in history. Guided by the Spirit, the Church is building up this communion in
the various areas of Church life and in the life of civil society.(33)
LIGHTS AND SHADOWS
32. Communion, as presently lived in the Christian communities of America, is
characterized by lights and shadows. Among the former, mention should be made of the role
of Christian families as true schools of communion. In the family, children receive their
first experience of faith and the love of God, as well as their first examples of acts of
charity towards their neighbour. Many Christian families in America are indeed living
cells of communion, bearing witness to fidelity to Christ, love for His Word and
observance of His will. They are one of the great hopes of the Church for the new
The consecrated life in the American continent, although not without its difficulties,
is also a witness of communion as manifested through a life in common and also through an
attitude of communion towards other members of the particular and universal Church. Men
and women religious, members of the societies of apostolic life, and those belonging to
secular institutes strengthen the bonds of ecclesial communion by placing the uniqueness
and diversity of their charism at the service of the one Body, the Church.(34) Pope John
Paul II recalls in his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata that
consecrated persons have an important mission in the Church: "Consecrated persons
should be zealous heralds of Jesus Christ, ready to respond with the wisdom of the Gospel
to the questions posed today by the anxieties and urgent needs of the human
Another positive aspect in communion is the life of so many priests who "are
sacramental representations of Jesus Christ, the Head and Shepherd"(36) and who thus,
by their selfless daily labour, build up communion in the particular Churches, each
contributing his gifts and ministry in the proclamation of the Word, in the administration
of the sacraments and the pastoral leadership of the parish community.
Other builders of communion are lay people who, in virtue of their baptismal anointing,
take up their apostolic commitment in the Church and in civil society. Indeed, these
people sanctify the world and build up communion by fulfilling with a sense of Christian
responsibility their duties in various areas: the family, the workplace, causes in defense
of humanity; and the fields of social communication, thought, politics, economics and
labor in general. In this regard, the Letter to Diognetus states: "The relation of
Christians to the world is that of a soul to the body."(37) All people of good will
also contribute in building up the communion which God desires for all the members of the
human family by working for the common good, for the progress of peoples, for culture and
for justice and peace.
Furthermore, signs of this communion lived among the members of the Church and society
are the following: a sensitivity--which grows more acute each day--to the problems of
social injustice in the fields of economics, politics and culture; the longing for a
legitimate liberation and promotion of the whole person as well as of all persons and
groups; the more widespread study and application of the Church's social teaching; and the
many instances of solidarity at the regional, national and international levels.
33. Nevertheless, difficulties and obstacles can also be detected in the Church's life
of communion in America. For example, opportunity or room for dialogue does not always
exist among different members of the Church. Likewise, the lack of effective structures
oftentimes causes problems in pastoral collaboration. Tensions and frictions are sometimes
present. Within the Church, the crisis of obedience to the Church's
Magisterium--manifested in many ways-- does not foster communion, i.e., some theological
or pastoral positions in certain matters, the dissent of some theologians, the attitudes
of groups and persons who, although they call themselves "Catholics", are in
open contradiction to the teachings of the Church in the matter of morals as well as in
some aspects of dogma.
Some members of the People of God are not rooted firmly enough in the Faith so that the
sects, with their deceptive proselytism, mislead them to separate themselves from true
communion in Christ. Within the Church community, the multiplication of supposed
"apparitions" or "visions" is sowing confusion and reveals a certain
lack of a solid basis to the faith and Christian life among Her members. On the other
hand, these negative aspects, in their own way, reveal a certain thirst for spiritual
things which, if they are properly channeled, can be the point of departure for a
conversion to faith in Christ.
34. Certain aspects of today's society cause the weakening of communion. They are
manifested particularly in the dominance of such counter-values as materialism, egoism and
hedonism. Furthermore, subjectivism is on the rise, oftentimes seen in an attitude of
confrontation with authority, that of the Church or of other types of institutions:
familial, educational or civil. In families--even Christian ones--there can be seen a
weakening of religious values, a relative increase in separations and divorces and a
growing number of children being born out of wedlock. Last of all, reference must be made
to a greater diffusion of a certain "culture of death", as illustrated in the
rising practice of abortion and an increasing tendency towards euthanasia. The lack of a
positive attitude towards life is also expressed in the lower birthrate as well as in the
segregation of the elderly from the family nucleus and society.
THOSE WHO WORK FOR COMMUNION
35. The Holy Spirit, the principle of communion in the Church, "was sent on the
day of Pentecost in order that He might continually sanctify the Church, and that,
consequently, those who believe might have access through Christ in one Spirit to the
Father."(38) It is He who is guiding the Church "into all the truth" (Jn
16:13) and unifying Her in communion and ministry. He supplies and governs Her with
diverse hierarchical and charismatic gifts and enriches Her with His fruits (cf. Eph
4:11-12; 1 Cor 12:4). The faithful's communion with the Holy Spirit and their
communion among themselves were the subjects of one of the most insistent petitions which
Christ made to the Father, after instituting the Eucharist and before going to His passion
(cf. Jn 17:21-26). The people in America, the more they believe in Christ the more
they will strive to work for the above communion by abiding in His love, observing His
Word and, above all, by practicing fraternal charity. The members of the People of God in
America--according to each's vocation--are called to build up communion, practicing the
words of Christ in the Beatitudes: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be
called sons of God" (Mt 5:9).
36. As the successors of the Apostles, "the individual bishops are the visible
source and foundation of unity in their own particular Churches."(39) Therefore, they
must be the first builders of communion, living in unity with the Roman Pontiff, the
successor of St. Peter, and with the other members of the episcopal college. In the same
way, bishops work for communion in their own particular Churches by promoting and guarding
the unity of faith and the common discipline of the entire Church, and by fostering among
Her members a love for the whole Mystical Body of Christ, especially those who are poor,
suffering, or persecuted for the sake of justice as well as those whom the Lord has called
"blessed" (Mt 5:1-12).(40) Bishops are also agents of communion at the
level of the universal Church.
37. In the particular Church, there are many signs which show a fruitful increase in
the building up of communion, e.g., the bishop with his presbyterate, priests
with one another and with the laity, and women and men religious, who contribute
their charism to the life and apostolate of the diocese, in dialogue with the other
members of the local Church and in obedience to the local bishop. All combine in this
fruitful structure of ecclesial communion.
The Church in America is living a very important historic moment in celebrating for the
first time the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will gather together
Pastors of the particular Churches of the continent. The People of God in America and the
whole universal Church look with hope to this Special Assembly with the view of achieving
a more effective building up of communion in the various areas of ecclesial and social
38. The laity have, in turn, the mission of building up communion in the broad
context of their activities in the world. In virtue of their baptismal consecration and
their mission to bear witness to the Gospel, re-enforced in a special way by the sacrament
of confirmation, they are contributing their charism to the growth of the whole Mystical
Body, the Church. They bring the new leaven of the Gospel to temporal activities by the
witness of their Christian life and charity in the family, and by promoting respect and
peace in civil society. The following are some of the many concrete expressions through
which the laity make communion visible and effective in the Church and in society : the
welcoming of migrants and foreigners; helping marginalized minority groups; and
involvement in programs promoting peace, the respect for life, the defence of human rights
The family, the "domestic Church" and image of the Trinity, is an
important element in communion because it is the place where one learns to love God and
neighbour. "All members of the family, each according to his or her own gift, have
the grace and responsibility of building, day-by-day, the communion of persons, making the
family a school of deeper humanity."(41)
Young people in America have also given--and continue to give-- evidence of a
renewal in vitality, assuming their place in the fabric of this great tapestry of
communion among people. With their enthusiasm and sincerity, with their capacity for
friendship and service of great causes, they are building up communion, thus inserting
themselves among the new generations in the life of society.
39. Woman is especially gifted by her feminine genius to be a builder of
communion: in the family as a place of love, encounter and reconciliation, in society as a
promoter of assistance and service to those in need, in the consecrated life as a witness
of love of God and of availability to serve others, and in cultural, professional and
political life as the bearer of humaneness, sensitivity, patience and serenity. Quite
rightly, Pope John Paul II, in his Letter to Women, 29 June 1995, wrote a beautiful
word of thanks to all the women of the world among whom the women of America have proven
themselves deserving in a particular way: "Thank you, women who are mothers! You have
sheltered human beings within yourselves in a unique experience of joy and travail. This
experience makes you become God's own smile upon the newborn child, the one who guides
your child's first steps, who helps it to grow, and who is the anchor as the child makes
its way along the journey of life. Thank you, women who are wives! You irrevocably join
your future to that of your husbands, in a relationship of mutual giving, at the service
of love and life. Thank you, women who are daughters and women who are sisters! Into the
heart of the family, and then of all society you bring the richness of your sensitivity,
of your intuitiveness, your generosity and fidelity. Thank you, women who work! You are
present and active in every area of life--social, economic, cultural, artistic and
political. In this way you make an indispensable contribution to the growth of a culture
which unites reason and feeling, to a model of life ever open to the sense of 'mystery',
to the establishment of economic and political structures ever more worthy of humanity.
Thank you, consecrated women! Following the example of the greatest of women, the Mother
of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, you open yourselves with obedience and fidelity to
the gift of God's love. You help the Church and all mankind to experience a 'spousal'
relationship to God, one which magnificently expresses the fellowship which God wishes to
establish with His creatures. Thank you, every woman, for the simple fact of being a
woman! Through the insight which is so much a part of your womanhood you enrich the
world's understanding and help to make human relations more honest and
In the life of the Church woman occupies an irreplaceable role, which unfortunately is
not always entirely understood in its true dimension. This no doubt accounts for
movements--among some faithful of the particular Churches, above all, in North
America--which demand the Catholic Church to accept the ordination of women. The
Magisterium of the Church has addressed itself repeatedly to this topic to make clear not
only the impossibility of changing the precise will of Jesus Christ in this matter, but
also to point out the rich and countless possibilities for women to participate in the
life and mission of the Church.(43)
AREAS AND WAYS FOR COMMUNION
40. The Church continues Christ's work and is Herself a mystery of communion and unity.
She is the flock of Christ, God's cultivated field, the Mystical Vine planted by God,
God's Building, the Family of God and His People and, above all, the Mystical Body of
Christ. All these images are recalled by the Second Vatican Council.(44) She has the
mission of continuing and fulfilling the work of communion begun by Christ. She also has
the mission of living and building communion among Christ's disciples and among all people
because "the Church, in Christ, is in the nature of a sacrament, a sign and
instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men."(45)
The ways of transmitting this communion, under the guidance of the Spirit, are
first of all the sacraments, which signify and produce grace as well as the vital
union with Christ. Hence, in the new evangelization of America, primary importance belongs
to the liturgical life of Christian communities. In fact, the Eucharist is the
summit and source of all the Church's life,(46) "because there is one bread, we who
are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread" (1 Cor 10:17). It
is a very positive sign that in many communities the conscious and active liturgical
participation of the faithful is increasing. This contributes to regaining the religious
sense of the Lord's Day, to pray to the Father in the Spirit as the Lord Jesus taught, to
render to the One and Triune God the worship which is due as Creator, Redeemer and
Sanctifier. In this way, Sunday continues to be not only a festive day and a day of
repose, but also and above all, a day of worship, prayer and adoration. The faithful leave
the celebration of the Sunday Eucharist fortified and stimulated to give witness to Christ
before the world, and to perform works of charity and solidarity.
41. The communion in the People of God is manifested primarily in the unity of faith:
"One Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Eph 4:5). The faith of the People of
God is being weakened today by many factors, e.g., a secularist mentality, materialism,
relativism, the aggressive programs and proselytism of the sects and the lack of religious
formation of some of the faithful. Hence, educating the People of God in the
faith is one of the urgent priorities for the Church in America. To achieve this end
requires the proclamation of the Word at all levels: catechesis of children, young
people, adults, the teaching of religion in primary, middle and secondary schools, and
courses on religious topics for non- religious students in universities and centers of
In this duly-adapted effort at catechesis, a special place needs to be given to those
categories of persons who have greater influence on society: politicians, economists,
business people, the intellectual community and those involved in entertainment and the
mass media. The example of Christ, who addresses His Word to all--poor and rich, educated
and unlearned, children and adults--sets the pattern for the evangelizer.
Education in the faith is intrinsically united to education in charity. Therefore,
another way to cultivate Church communion is the practice of fraternal love, which
includes among its many aspects: the service of charity, social advancement of those most
in need and dialogue at all levels, not only with the members of the ecclesial community
but also with all people of good will. An important place in the practice of love of
neighbor is held by intra- ecclesial cooperation expressed in the charity among particular
Churches: sharing of human and material resources, communication of cultural values,
cooperation through joint pastoral initiatives, and solidarity among the various local
Churches, including those beyond the nation's borders.
42. Ecumenism is also a privileged area for the exercise of communion. This
dimension of the apostolate, developed in varying degrees by the initiative of diverse
particular Churches on the continent, is a response to Christ's desire and also the
subject of His prayer to the Father: "That they all may be one; even as thou, Father,
art in me and I in thee" (Jn 17:21). The unity of the People of God is being
built in the following ways: through prayer; through respectful and sincere dialogue which
always gives priority to loyalty and truth; through cooperation in the social field, in
ecology and in charitable activities; and through initiatives on behalf of peace.
The Catholic Church in America, trusting in the Holy Spirit, the source of unity and
truth, does not cease being a promoter of initiatives aimed at fostering ecumenical
dialogue. Where the duty to work for communion is the same for the whole Church, it is
worked out in different situations. In countries where the vast majority of the people
have traditionally been Catholic--like the Latin American countries--, these ecumenical
initiatives are undertaken with caution, so as not to endanger the faithful's adherence to
the Church's doctrine, their participation in the Church's liturgical and sacramental
life, and their practice of traditions and activities which express their faith. In
countries where Catholics have traditionally lived with other confessions--as in the North
and in some countries of the Antilles--the initiatives and cooperation with members of
other confessions are more in evidence and more easily undertaken. One example of the
greater possibility for dialogue with other confessions is demonstrated by the work of
some bishops of the Caribbean, who contributed to the founding of the only ecumenical
organization present in their region.
GOALS AND CHALLENGES
43. In order to fulfil the mission of building unity and communion, the Church in
America proposes various goals, which are also challenges to Her faith, hope and charity,
as well as to Her courage and effectiveness. Among these goals is the promotion of the
holiness of Her members, revitalizing a sense of mission, working for inculturation and
contributing to the achievement of unity and peace.
The Church is perfectly holy because the Son of God loved Her as a spouse,
offered Himself for Her sanctification (Eph 5:25-26) and enriches Her with the gift
of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God. The Church, in turn, invites all the faithful of
whatever state or condition of life to the fullness of Christian life and to the
perfection of charity.(48) In reality, it is above all through holiness that the Church
brings about Her work for the salvation of humanity. In the lives of the saints, martyrs
and confessors of the faith, the Church in America sees the most sublime fruits of
Christ's action and the best instruments for the new evangelization. The Pilgrim Church in
America recalls with gratitude and veneration Her saints, the faithful witnesses of Jesus
Christ the Savior and Evangelizer: the Martyr Saints John de Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues and
their companions, Saint Rose of Lima, Saint Toribio de Mongovejo, Saint Frances Xavier
Cabrini, Saint Martin de Porres, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, Saint Juan Macias, Saint Rose
Philippine Duchesne, Saint Ezequiel Moreno, Saint Peter Claver, Saint Francis Solano,
Saint Teresa de Los Andes, Saint Maria Ana de Jesús Pareres y Flores, and the Blesseds
Kateri Tekakwitha, Junipero Serra, Katherine Drexel, Juan Diego, Miguel Pro, Rafael Guizar
y Valencia and many other saints and blesseds who have borne witness to the Gospel in
America. From heaven they sustain the faith and life of the People of God in their earthly
pilgrimage, confirming that the call to holiness continues to represent one of the most
important goals and challenges for communion within the Church in America.
44. The catholicity and universality of the Church demonstrates that one of Her most
essential tasks is that of mission, i.e., proclaiming the Gospel to all peoples.
Everyone--Pastors and Faithful--should consider as their own the missionary task both
within their particular Churches and beyond its borders. A sign of the vitality and
authenticity of the Christian faith on the continent is the many missionaries who,
departing from those Churches with a greater number of vocations, have worked
generously--and continue to do so--in regions where the proclamation of the Gospel has not
borne such abundant fruit. The exchange of gifts, beginning with the gifts of persons,
such as priests and religious, is a concrete application of the principle of communion
among the particular Churches.(49) The growing awareness in America--in the North, Central
and South alike--that the faith is strengthened by passing on the Good News, even beyond
one's borders, is giving new life to the apostolate and providing new opportunities for
mission on the whole continent.
45. In our days, culture has acquired a great importance, since it is both the
fruit and the source of human formation and advancement. At the same time, culture is a
fruitful area for evangelization and for communion as well. Culture treats not only those
factors which develop the countless spiritual and physical qualities in a person, but also
those distinct lifestyles and diverse values of peoples, which succeed in making social
life more human.(50) In order for evangelization to be truly effective, it will be
necessary to go to the roots of culture--as Pope Paul VI suggested--in order to transform
with the power of the Gospel "the criteria of judgment, determining values, points of
interest, lines of thought, sources of inspiration and models of life, which are in
contrast with the Word of God and the plan of salvation."(51)
America is composed of a variety of peoples with as many cultures. Instead of
impoverishing the American continent, this multiplicity is a source of enrichment.
Analogously speaking, just as each person has a soul, each people has a particular
spiritual form which is expressed in cultural categories. America is adorned with a
splendid mantle of the diverse cultures of her peoples: indigenous peoples,
African-Americans, mestizos, Creoles, those of European and Asian origin and other
ethnic minorities. In this mosaic, there is also a place for what we could call the
"modern" and "post-modern" cultures of today with their numerous
values such as freedom, democracy, participation, equality, solidarity, progress and
scientific and technical knowledge.
A new evangelization has already begun which places a great emphasis on culture so that
once culture is evangelized it can translate the Gospel message into its own language.
This is the process known as inculturation. For this process to take place
properly, evangelization must follow the stages of the mystery of Christ, i.e.,
incarnation, paschal mystery, pentecost. By the incarnation, the Word of God enters our
human reality, assumes it and expresses Himself in it; by the paschal mystery, everything
which is transitory and sinful in human existence is purified and born to new life;
through pentecost, human and Christian life, in the multiplicity and diversity of the
peoples, languages and cultural forms, is transformed through the Spirit into an
expression of the mystery and unity of the faith. Indeed, the Church, in welcoming the
diversity of peoples and cultures, assumes, purifies and unifies them, leading them to
confess one faith and to experience one life in charity.
46. On the other hand, the Church, in order to effectively gather the diverse cultures
together in unity, must Herself work tirelessly to achieve unity among Her sons and
daughters: Pastors with their flock, bishops with their presbyterate, priests with their
Pastors, priests among themselves and with the faithful, priests with religious, lay
movements with one another and with the ecclesial structures of their respective
particular Churches, theologians with Pastors, particular Churches with one another at the
regional, national and continental level. Therefore, Pope John Paul II says: "Among
the sins which require a greater commitment to repentance and conversion, should certainly
be counted those which have been detrimental to the unity willed by God for his
Each Christian community in its particular Church is faced with a vast field of work in
promoting communion. In this sense, the effort expended by each person in these
communities to soothe the tensions and disagreements in the doctrinal and pastoral field
is of great importance. In this way, the heightening of ethnic, cultural or national
differences may be avoided. Thus, the people of our day should be able to say about the
Christian communities of America what was said of the first Christian communities,
"See how they love one another", because they will see in them and among them
one soul and one heart, in virtue of their one faith in Christ, their fraternal love and
concrete works of solidarity.
47. Today, the great task of building peace and of making humanity one great
family is an inescapable challenge for all people of faith.(53) In this task, Catholics
and members of other Christian confessions must work together through patient, sincere,
ecumenical dialogue founded on truth, charity and prayer. Furthermore, praise must be
given to initiatives leading to dialogue with believers of non-Christian religions, such
as Jews and Muslims, as well as with members of other religions who share the belief in
one God. The great challenge of peace and unity also presupposes a disposition for
dialogue with all people of good will.
The road to achieving this goal, which responds to God's plan in Christ, is long and
difficult. It is a work which implies various steps oriented towards the formation of
intermediary communities at the regional, national and international level. The tendency
to form communities of peoples at the national level, as well as communities of nations at
the international and continental level, is a sign of humanity's desire to acknowledge
itself as one large family.
On the other hand, a certain unity has already taken place as a result of the means of
social communication, which are gradually making our planet a "global village".
Examples can be seen in the "Internet" (a network of information and
international communication) and in activities done at the international level, such as
tourism, sports, culture, science, technology, trade, economics, etc.. Other signs also
point to a gradual process--great and inevitable--which is leading humankind to unity. In
using all the above elements which promote unity, the Church can prepare for the encounter
with Christ. When He will have reunited in His risen Body all His members, then will the
Kingdom of the Father come and God will be all in all (cf. 1 Cor 15:24-28). This is
a magnificent task and an enormous challenge facing the Church in America--working for
communion, while preparing to cross the threshold of the Third Millennium of the Christian
JESUS CHRIST, THE WAY TO SOLIDARITY
SOLIDARITY IS BORN OF COMMUNION
48. Communion, properly understood and lived, is the basis and source of solidarity.
St. John, the Beloved Disciple, understood quite well the Master's spirit and teaching:
"And this is His commandment, that we should believe in the name of His Son Jesus
Christ and love one another, just as He has commanded us. All who keep His commandments
abide in Him, and He in them" (1 Jn 3:23- 24).
For the past two thousand years, the practice of this commandment of fraternal love has
been the principle for transforming societies. Today, at the dawn of the Third Millennium,
this is equally true. The practice of this commandment of fraternal love has the power to
renew society in America. Indeed, most of the problems afflicting the various peoples of
the continent have their origin in socio-economic causes, which can be overcome if each
person or group--including nations--apply the principle of solidarity. In the present
situation of economic, cultural and political interdependence, what was done in the past
by individual persons must today be done by entire peoples and nations.
49. The Church's social teaching, the body of principles which the Magisterium has
drawn from Her study of the Word of God (with special reference to the virtues of justice
and fraternal charity), as well as the demands of the natural law and the analysis of the
concrete historical situation, presents a full understanding of the human person, justice,
development and solidarity.(54)
Everyone, in virtue of being created in God's image and likeness, is called to
participate through Christ in the divine life. The human being has a body and soul and,
therefore, has needs and desires for fulfillment at the physical and immanent level as
well as at the spiritual and transcendent level. Hence, when one speaks of human promotion
and development, it should be pointed out that these must concern "the
whole person" because "man does not live by bread alone, but... by
everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord" (Dt 8:3; Mt 4:4). The
human person is the measure and center of all economic, political, social and cultural
activity. Therefore, one speaks of an integral development in the sense of a change
from "less human conditions" to "more human conditions", e.g., bread,
clothing, housing, work, instruction, freedom, openness to God and Jesus Christ.(55) At
the same time, reference is made to anauthentic development, that is, a development
that is "more human and able to sustain itself at the level of the true vocation of
men and women without denying economic requirements."(56)
50. The human being, whom God created male and female (with a fundamental equality,
although with different characteristics and gifts respectively), was placed in the world
to form a family and live in society. Therefore, a person cannot claim to seek
development and fulfillment without others. On the other hand, however, the Creator has
desired man and woman for themselves. This means that, although God has created them as
members of a community, any social problem necessarily implies the integral development of
man and woman individually as persons. Hence, comes the constant duty for solidarity
among individuals, groups and peoples, so that each man and woman can achieve fulfillment
in accordance with God's plan.(57)
Man and woman disfigured their original image as children of God by sinning against the
divine command. By sinning they separated themselves from God and introduced selfishness
into their hearts, the origin of so many sins of domination and injustice against
neighbour. Christ, with His redeeming grace, renews man and woman and shows each the way
of justice and love, which is expressed concretely in solidarity. This solidarity is born
of communion and has its roots in union with Christ, with the Father and with the Holy
Spirit. Indeed, St. John says in his first Letter: "If we walk in the light, as He is
in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses
us from all sin" (1 Jn 1:7), for "this is the message which you have
heard from the beginning, that we should love one another" (1 Jn 3:11).
"He who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in the darkness still. He
who loves his brother abides in the light, and in it there is no cause for stumbling"
(1 Jn 2:9-10).
Charity and solidarity are demands of an active faith because, if not,--as St. James
the Apostle says--"What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but
has not works? Can his faith save him: If a brother or sister is ill- clad and in lack of
daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled', without
giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it
has no works, is dead" (James 2:14-17).
51. The sight of many people in need in America has stirred many persons from their
indifference, from their passivity and from their fatalistic resignation, and has made
them take on an attitude of service. Christ encourages them and shows them the way:
"Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (Jn 16:33). Indeed, He
overcame sin through the depth and authenticity of His love, which caused Him to sacrifice
Himself in a selfless act of service. The Son of Man came not to be served "but to
serve, and to give His own life as a ransom for many" (Mk 10:45). Therefore,
following the example of Jesus, the Lord and Master, who washed the feet of His disciples
as a sign of love and humility, Christians are called to express fraternal communion in
their service of solidarity on behalf of others (cf. Jn 13:1ff). This love is
manifested in the service of solidarity and is the most effective witness of
evangelization. This love contains in itself all the power for a real transformation of
society. This love-- fundamentally an act of self-sacrifice and service, not words or mere
sentiments- -helps the person to rise above thoughts of self, to forget about comfort, to
overcome selfishness and to serve Christ in the brethren who are in need. This is a love
of solidarity which will ultimately determine a person's eternal destiny: "As you did
it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did unto Me.... Truly, I say to you, as
you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to Me" (Mt 25:40,
52. The Church in America, above all in the developing countries, has always manifested
a special desire to respond to the needs of the poor. In this way, She echoes the message
and life of Jesus Christ, who rich though He was, made Himself poor for our sakes so that
we might be enriched through His poverty (cf.2 Cor 8:9). This special concern has
stimulated theological reflection which- -as rightly pointed out by the Sacred
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's Instruction on some aspects of
"Liberation Theology"--rests upon three pillars: the truth about Jesus Christ,
the truth about the Church and the truth about the human person.(58) For this reason,
preferential love for the poor must be interpreted in the light of the experience of the
Church, which shines forth with particular light in the life of the saints.(59) Therefore,
to be of assistance in pastoral life and theological reflection, the Congregation's second
instruction on Liberation Theology insists that it is indispensable to maintain a clear
distinction and, at the same time, a just and necessary interrelation between
evangelization and the promotion of justice: "Hence She (the Church) takes great care
to maintain clearly and firmly both the unity and the distinction between evangelization
and human promotion: unity, because She seeks the good of the whole person; distinction,
because these two tasks enter, in different ways, into Her mission."(60)
It will be important to keep in mind that the goal of the mission of the Church in
America is the true liberation of the contemporary person, who suffers great oppression
and is yearning for freedom. This mission extends not only to the developing countries of
the central and southern parts of the continent, but also includes the geographical area
of the most developed countries of the North where the very phenomenon of industrial and
technological development are giving birth to new forms of poverty and slavery, e.g.,
moral decadence, corruption, extreme poverty and loneliness of some persons living in
densely populated urban areas; delinquency and violence by young people, a certain slavery
generated by consumerism and materialism, social marginalization of some groups in the big
SOME URGENT SOCIAL PROBLEMS AND THEIR CAUSES
53. The Church in America must face many complex problems in the social field. On
diverse occasions the bishops of America, gathered in episcopal assemblies at the national
and continental level, have concerned themselves with these problems, treating them in
various documents, e.g., La Iglesia en la actual transformacíon de Ameríca Latina a
la luz del Concilio (Medellin, 1968), La evangelizacíon en el presente y en el
futuro de Ameríca Latina (Puebla, 1978) and Nueva Evangelizacíon, Promocíon
Humana y Cultura Cristiana (Santo Domingo, 1992) of the General Conference of the
Latin American Episcopate; Economic Justice for all: Catholic Social Teaching and the
U.S. Economy (1986) and Moral Principles and Policies for Welfare Reform (1995)
of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (N.C.C.B.) of the United States of America;
and Les coûts humains du chômage (1980) and various documents from the Commission
for Social Affairs of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (C.C.C.B.). These
statements are an echo of the Popes' messages in diverse encyclicals, in particular Populorum
progressio, Laborem exercens andSollicitudo rei socialis.
The problems referred to most often in these documents are: poverty, injustice,
migration, international economic relations, the spread of multi- national corporations,
the free market, external debt, disparity in development and an unequal distribution of
resources between North, Central and South America, the lack of solidarity, the
clandestine drug trade, the situation of women in some countries, the rights of ethnic
minorities (primarily those of indigenous peoples and African-Americans), healthcare,
etc.. New problems must be added to this list, which have recently resulted from
scientific advances in the area of bioethics, above all in matters concerning genetic
manipulation.(61) All the Pastors of the continent are showing that they well understand
the problem these facts represent for those who bear the name of Christian.
54. Employment is a particularly important social problem. Experience teaches that
economic growth may cause difficulties in employment. Pope John Paul II has placed the
topic of work at the center of the social question in his Encyclical Letter Laborem
exercens: "Human work is a key, probably the essential key, to the whole social
question, if we try to see that question really from the point of view of man's good. And
if the solution--or rather the gradual solution--of the social question, which keeps
coming up and becomes even more complex, must be sought in the direction of 'making life
more human', then the key, namely human work, acquires fundamental and decisive
In this sense, the fundamental affirmation underlined in this same document becomes
basic; according to this affirmation, the means of production "cannot be possessed
against labor,... because the only legitimate title to their possession--whether in the
form of private ownership or in the form of public or collective ownership--is that they
should serve labor."(63)
Another subject deserving attention is the relationship of trans-national corporations.
These have acquired great power in recent years and are assuming greater importance with
the market's becoming more global. This increase of power must be commensurate with a
greater responsibility on the part of the executives of these corporations. Therefore, the
Church has the important mission of making Her social message also reach this sector.
The Church's presence in the social field is brought about--among many other
ways--through the proper diffusion of documents on this topic by the Holy See and the
bishops. In this regard, communication is crucial. In some cases, the contents of
important documents receive only a superficial treatment and distribution through some
type of communication at the time of their publication. The challenge of the new
evangelization on the American continent is to find ways of utilizing the means of social
communications available, so that the Church's social teaching might become better known.
Still in the context of the social question, reference must also be made-- beyond the
positive aspects of life in the city--to the problems caused by urbanization: persons
without "roots", anonymity, loneliness, immorality, etc.. This situation is of
particular concern when these factors combine with other elements--especially poverty and
indigence--which define the complex social question of the poor barrios or
favelas on the outskirts of the cities in Central and South America and the
marginalized areas of the large cities in North America. On the other hand, urbanization
as well as industrialization are causing a progressive destruction of natural resources
and a contamination of the whole planet's environment. Simultaneously, the immigration
from country to city is causing the appearance of a new type of "cultural and
Christian desert" in urban societies, most of all in the countries in the south of
55. These few observations on the social situation in America will serve no purpose,
unless the possible causes of the problems be pointed out and some means to
overcome them suggested. The guidelines for reflection must always be the documents of the
Church in the social field. The Church places the most emphasis on the moral causes
of these social problems. In the Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo rei socialis, Pope
John Paul II clearly affirms that, among the attitudes to be kept in mind as contributing
to the economic imbalance, are "the all-consuming desire for profit, and the thirst
for power."(64) Such attitudes give rise to acts of omission or negatives acts of
commission, which end up creating structures of sin, in turn aggravating the divisions
existing among the few who have much and the many who have little.
In keeping with the Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo rei socialis, it is possible
to say: if the cause is moral, the solution must also be moral. Therefore, Pope John Paul
II proposes the cultivation of the virtue of solidarity.(65) Solidarity is understood to
be a morally necessary reaction to the existence of injustice in social conditions which
many individuals suffer today. Solidarity as a virtue implies the necessity to act
in an habitual manner and not one consisting simply of sporadic acts of goodwill. Growth
in this virtue will be motivated by an awareness of the interdependence which unites all
people in a common destiny. Each person achieves salvation through assuming the
responsibility of working for the salvation of others.
It is also important to consider the whole meaning of solidarity as proposed by the
Church's social teaching. It is not some one-way action bestowed from above to those
below. Everyone must take part. Pope John Paul II's Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo
rei socialis and the document on the external debt by the Pontifical Commission Iustitia
et Pax insist on the responsibility of all parties and social groups.(66)
56. There are those who say that Catholicism--or more appropriately the cultural
tradition with Catholic roots--is to some degree "culpable" for the
underdevelopment of some countries. This theory is dangerous, because it can be understood
as saying that progress should be achieved at the expense of the faith. One cannot deny
that religion has an influence on the culture of a people and their concept of history,
time, work and life in general. However, that influence is not always negative, as some
people might wish to portray the influence of the Catholicism in relation to other
religions. Therefore, it is important to study more thoroughly and to reflect on the
relationship between the Christian religion--and more concretely the Catholic
religion--and the development of peoples.
Sometimes the analysis of social problems is very difficult because of their complexity
and their link to the social sciences. For some problems, however, such as poverty, there
is no room for indecisiveness. In those cases where there is a difference of opinion or no
perfect solution, there is the moral obligation to act. In this regard, it is important to
recall a warning made by Pope John XXIII: "However, when it comes to reducing these
teachings to action, it sometimes happens that even sincere Catholic men have differing
views. When this occurs they should take care to have and to show mutual esteem and
regard, and to explore the extent to which they can work in cooperation among themselves.
Thus, they can in good time accomplish what necessity requires. Let them also take great
care not to weaken their efforts in constant controversies. Nor should they, under pretext
of seeking what they think best, meanwhile, fail to do what they can and hence should
One way to make practical reasoning more effective is to try always to place oneself in
the other's position. To carry out this aim, it is good to remember the golden rule:
"Do unto others what you would have them do unto you." This in turn is a logical
conclusion to the first principle of the natural moral law: "Do good and avoid
evil". Changing the viewpoint from which problems are studied could be an important
step in conversion, since the root of injustice --as mentioned above--is in the moral
THOSE WHO WORK FOR SOLIDARITY
57. The responsibility of the pastors of the People of God (bishops and priests)
in the above mentioned areas is clear and certain. A valuable contribution in this area is
made by men and women religious, those belonging to apostolic movements and those
in other institutes. These dedicated people work with families, children and young people.
They run centers of charity and assistance. They work in schools or live among the poor,
bringing the witness of their love along with their assistance in solidarity. Many such
experiences in the Church in America show that they too are effective agents of
In this commonly shared task of solidarity the laity have a decisive role. A
great potential for generosity in response to human suffering and need exists in the
Christian laity of North, Central and South America. Past and recent history is filled
with examples of this effective cooperation at the time of natural disasters or social or
political conflicts (wars, guerilla attacks or other more or less chronic problems of a
social or cultural nature).
In all parts of the continent solidarity is enriched by the vitality and spontaneity of
young people. They have within themselves an enormous capacity for self-giving.
They await from their Pastors the invitation which Christ addressed to the workers in the
marketplace: "You go into the vineyard too" (Mt 20:4). Yesterday and
today alike, they respond to this call, e.g., as priests or religious, consecrated
persons, lay missionaries, lay volunteers, etc..
The family also plays a primary role in forming new generations to practice
solidarity towards those in need. The example and witness of parents is decisive in
teaching children and adolescents to be sensitive to others and to have an altruistic
attitude. Woman, to whom God "entrusts in a special way man, that is, the
human being,"(68) has a very important role in the field of solidarity. Indeed, she
"cannot find herself except by giving love to others."(69) Woman's proper
participation in the Church, in accordance with her particular vocation to life and love,
makes her an effective agent of solidarity at the service of the Gospel.
POSSIBLE WAYS FOR ACHIEVING SOLIDARITY
58. Programs of formation for priests and religious in the Church's social
teaching is an aspect of fundamental importance in preparing the way for solidarity.(70)
To the degree that those responsible for pastoral leadership are better able to understand
human problems in light of important elements in contemporary social life (politics,
finances, culture, social justice, economics, etc.), they can more effectively act in the
social area to bring about practical initiatives for solidarity. Indeed, the aim of
formation in this area is twofold: on the one hand--on the level of enduring
principles--to achieve an objective judgment in the social situation, and on the other
hand, to put into effect the most appropriate options for eliminating injustice and
promoting political, economic and social changes in accord with the particular
circumstances of each case.(71)
59. There are diverse possibilities for achieving solidarity at various levels in the
Church in America. A way of solidarity between the Christian communities of North America
and Central-South America has already been opened. This can be seen, for example, in the
initiative of teaching the Spanish language in many seminaries of the United States of
America so that future priests can be better prepared for pastoral work with
Spanish-language communities and immigrants. There is also the fact of the voluntary
service offered by lay men and women coming from North America to the neediest regions of
the continent's Central- South. At the same time, it would be beneficial for those who
find themselves in countries not their own, to develop an attitude of respect for and
understanding of the culture of their host country. Likewise, one can promote programs
which consider the possibility of priests from Latin America to visit the countries of the
continent's North, in order to give spiritual care to the people of Latin American origin.
The way of solidarity undertaken by many lay men and women, especiallyprofessionals,
who give generously of their time and knowledge on behalf of the poor, remains open to the
creativity of new forms. One aspect deserving of special consideration is volunteer work,
not only at the local level, but at the international level. The three parts of the
continent have much to exchange in this regard.
Though the city poses many problems, it also presents new opportunities for
action. The Church, with Her parish structures and various programs, is very much a part
of the urban structure. These settings offer people new areas where they can experience
religion. The urban apostolate continues to be a priority in the formation of priests,
religious and lay workers. In this regard, there are many opportunities for creativity in
devising new methods, new ways and new languages of evangelization.
ASPIRATIONS AND CHALLENGES OF THE CHURCH IN AMERICA
60. In keeping with the above considerations, the Church in America seeks to promote
and practice solidarity among the continent's North, Central and South. She searches for
ways to channel effective aid to groups and nations which suffer from poverty and the need
for education, medicine, healthcare structures, housing, employment, etc.. In this case,
the real challenge is forming a moral conscience in those who can have a decisive
influence on economic programs and policies, on social communication, on culture, on
healthcare, etc.. In promoting proper political, economic and cultural plans, such people
could work for the benefit of others not simply in the local communities and among local
peoples, but also in national or international structures.
It is not the Church's mission to resolve all social problems. However, the Church can
doubtlessly contribute to the partial solution of some fundamental problems. For example,
She could help in areas which touch the basic things needed for a dignified human
life--food, housing, education, clothing, medicine, etc.. Many particular Churches in
America give Gospel witness to a communion in solidarity by creating programs to foster
cooperative initiatives between one Church and another. They also do this at the
continental level within already existing structures of aid, and, when opportune, apart
from these structures. The example of the primitive Christian community in apostolic times
continues to be the Church's inspiration in the area of a real communion and sharing of
gifts, including material ones. The text from the Acts of the Apostles is clear and simple
in its teaching: "Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul,
and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had
everything in common. And with great power the apostles gave their testimony to the
resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy
person among them, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and
brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet; and distribution
was made to each as any had need" (Acts 4:32-35).
The example of St. Paul, who did not hesitate to organize a collection among the
Churches in Asia Minor on behalf of the persecuted sister community of Jerusalem, provides
a concrete and direct model as to how to meet the needs of the brethren, in the name of He
who "though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you
might become rich" (2 Cor 8:9).
61. The Church's social teaching is demanding because the Gospel itself is demanding.
But, to enter into the spirit of the Gospel, it is necessary to undergo conversion, which
is a change of heart and mind. When it is authentic, this interior change leads to changes
in one's way of acting. The Church in America has shown--and continues to show today as
well--a particular involvement in the area of social programs to benefit all
persons on the continent. This particular interest is demonstrated in the Gospel option
for the most helpless and needy, as well as in the Church's desire to promote the integral
development of all persons at all levels--physical and spiritual, material and cultural.
In the Christian sense, promoting social involvement implies the challenge of forming in
the laity a social conscience of solidarity and generosity. This will allow those in
regions which are more privileged and self-sufficient, to share material and human
resources with people in regions less favored.
Regarding promoting social programs, the Church in America has always shown a
particular interest and concern for academic and cultural education-- at the
primary, secondary and advanced levels--as a basic condition for the development of
peoples. This concern for education, together with an adequatereligious formation,
has always been shown by the Church. She has insisted on this so that Christians might
give the reason for their hope and might respond appropriately to the challenge of
secularization and to questions posed by various religious confessions. Indeed, religious sects
and pseudo-spiritual movements are undermining the religious and cultural unity of the
Catholic people of America. Through the use of abundant economic and technical resources,
they proselytize in a manner which often manipulates consciences. In Latin America these
sects frequently attack the identity of a nation, an identity which is closely linked to
the Catholic faith. In the area of religious formation, this constitutes another challenge
for the Church in America.
62. Since the concept of culture involves the ways in which people develop their
relationships with God, others and nature, inculturation is another great
aspiration for the Church in America. Indeed, by evangelizing culture it is possible to
promote human relationships which reflect the commandment of love of God and love of
neighbor, through concrete forms of fraternal solidarity. To know, to respect and to
promote the culture of each ethnic group, and to proclaim the Gospel to each culture--so
that, once it is evangelized, it will in turn express the content of the Gospel in its own
forms--is the cyclical process of inculturation, which is presented as one of the goals in
the new evangelization.
Peoples enrich the human and ecclesial communities through the contribution of their
own cultures. The Gospel, incarnated in the diverse cultural forms of peoples, displays
its inexhaustible richness. Therefore, in all which is positive and in all which is in
keeping with the perennial message of the Good News, the Church values and defends the
culture of each people and every group. In America, there are heterogeneous cultural
expressions: those of contemporary societies, those of the indigenous or autochthonous
groups on the continent (from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego), those of the African-Americans
of the North, Central, Caribbean and South, and those of the ethnic minorities who have
come to America in the last two centuries, enriching it with their cultures. Each of these
groups possesses a cultural heritage which can be recognized in its artistic expressions,
religious practice and innate qualities. Each of these groups is a precious gift for the
continent and the whole world.
63. In the ecumenical field there are many initiatives. Some have already been
accomplished and others have just begun. These are meant to build up unity through acts of
solidarity with the brethren of other Christian confessions, not only in matters
pertaining to inter-confessional dialogue, but also in other areas, e.g., economic and
social assistance, culture, healthcare, etc.. The words of the Second Vatican Council
encourage Catholics to cooperate with their brothers and sisters of other Christian
confessions: "Since cooperation in social matters is so widespread today, all men
without exception are called to work together; with much greater reason is this true of
all who believe in God, but most of all, it is especially true of all Christians, since
they bear the seal of Christ's name."(72) In light of the spread of indifference and
a mentality with no place for God, efforts at collaboration will make it possible to
preserve better the patrimony of common Christian truths and values. Gatherings for prayer
and reflection, organized by those in charge of these Christian communities, provide
opportunity to continue on the road leading to the unity, desired by Christ.
64. The communion and solidarity of the whole human family must be accomplished in
gradual stages, so as to reach a true and solid integration of communities at the
national and continental level. In this way, channels for reciprocal relations will be
created among North, Central and South America, all the while respecting the diverse
socio-cultural realities. As in the initial stages of any endeavor, there are
difficulties. Some people may view such an undertaking as a "utopia", unlikely
and impossible to achieve. Without a doubt, the difficulties to be overcome are not simply
technical, i.e., economic, juridical, cultural or political, but, above all, human, i.e.,
suspicious and mutual distrust, historic resentments, enduring attitudes of
discrimination, and a strict and exclusive nationalism.
Great problems require great solutions, which often imply great gestures of generosity
and sacrifice. In this case, what is at stake is adopting communion and solidarity--as
desired by Christ--as a way of life for all Christ's disciples. This is not only the
innermost desire of humanity, but also the goal towards which the People of God is
journeying, guided by the faith, hope and love of Jesus Christ. The efforts being made at
present in the various parts of the world to create communities of nations in the fields
of economy or culture--in Europe, in the Eastern Pacific, in North, Central and South
America--are like the pieces with which the mosaic of an immense community of nations is
being created. The ultimate goal, which responds to God's plan and Christ's plea, is
always the unity of the human family, which is bound together by faith in Christ. Indeed,
the Church Herself, one in Her faith, one in Her sacraments and one in Her
hierarchy, is catholic in the universality of Her members and Her communities with their
respective cultures. She is already an anticipation of the One People and One Family
desired by God since the dawn of creation.
65. Christ's command, "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations" (Mt
28:19), continues to be as pressing today as when He first addressed it to the Apostles on
the mountain in Galilee, shortly before He ascended into heaven. At the approach of the
Third Millennium, Christ is once again sending forth His Church in America to evangelize
contemporary society. Mission is one of the first and most urgent duties of the entire
People of God. In light of a rapidly changing world and society, which is profoundly
different from those of previous decades, all Christians should feel within themselves the
urgent need of mission. To fulfill this mission requires following the same salvific way
which Christ followed two thousand years ago. He is today, as yesterday and forever,
"the Way, the Truth and the Life" (Jn 14: 16) of every person on
pilgrimage towards heaven.
The objectives pointed out by Pope John Paul II for the Special Assembly of the Synod
of Bishops for America are difficult yet challenging--to foster a new evangelization in
every part of the American continent, to increase solidarity among the various particular
Churches and to shed light on the problems of justice and the international economic
relations among the North, Central and South.
66. The discussions and the suggestions for implementation, resulting from the Special
Assembly for America, will not have a sociological or technical emphasis, but one based on
the Gospel. Peter said to the crippled man at the Beautiful Gate of the temple in
Jerusalem: "I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of
Jesus of Nazareth, walk" (Acts 3:6). In a similar way, the Special Assembly of
the Synod of Bishops for America, over which the successor of St. Peter will preside, will
help indicate to the People of God the path to walk so as to meet the living Jesus Christ,
the Lord of time and eternity.
At this moment in history, the Spirit of the Lord invites us to stop being fearful or
hesitant, and to set out with courage to proclaim the Word in America with parresia or
"boldness" and with all its power to transform hearts, societies and cultures.
This demands conversion and a change of heart. Today, the echo of the Apostle's
voice is heard in America, encouraging the Church with the words: "We beseech you...,
be reconciled to God" (2 Cor 5:20). Conversion and reconciliation with God the
Father, and with all people, our brothers and sisters, is the first condition required by
Jesus at the beginning of the new evangelization: "The Kingdom of God is at hand:
repent, and believe in the Gospel" (Mk 1:15). In order to be good
evangelizers, one must first be evangelized. Only by preparing the way with a genuine conversion
will it be possible to set out confidently towards the goal, which is communion
with God in Christ, and to be able to yield the abundant fruits of love and solidarity
in the Spirit.
67. The Virgin Mary, Mother of the Redeemer and Mother of the Church,(73) is the Star
of the New Evangelization. She is surely guiding the People of God in America to meet the
Lord.(74) She makes her maternal presence felt among her people as she did at the
beginning of the Church's life, and today, as in the past, she continues to invite all her
children to conversion, communion and solidarity.
In this age which has many causes for concern and, likewise, many signs of hope, the
occasion of the Special Assembly for America invites the entire People of God to abandon
fear and discouragement and to listen attentively to what the Spirit is saying to the
Pilgrim Church on the continent: "America, open your heart to Christ".
Encounter with the Living Christ
1. How is the person of Jesus Christ, the Savior and Evangelizer, proclaimed and
presented to the men and women of the present era, so that they might have a true
encounter with Him in the concrete situations of life? Describe the ways in which the
Church can maintain the centrality of the living Jesus Christ in the various
manifestations of the Church's life: liturgy, systematic catechesis, formation in the
faith, apostolic and charitable activities?
Conversion in the Church and in Society
2. List and describe concrete signs of the religious awakening in the local Church. On
the other hand, what are the most urgent aspects needing conversion within the Church?
3. What elements in contemporary society in your area can be considered positive with
regards to the Gospel message? What elements of society call for conversion?
Communion in the Church
4. In your area, what are the factors causing significant divisions in the Church with
regard to: bishops, priests, men and women religious, ecclesial movements, the faithful in
general? How can these elements which damage communion be overcome?
5. Evaluate to what measure the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, especially in
relation to ecclesial communion, have been faithfully applied in your particular Church.
In what ways can all the doctrinal and pastoral richness of this Council be proposed in
response to the Holy Father's invitation to make an "examination of conscience"
which "must consider the reception given to the Council, this great gift of
the Spirit to the Church at the end of the second millennium" (Apostolic Letter Tertio
millennio adventiente, 36).
Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue
6. What is being done concretely in the particular Churches, or at the inter diocesan
level, to promote ecumenical dialogue, prayer and cooperation in acts of solidarity with
our Christian brethren? How are pastoral workers prepared to develop ecumenical activities
oriented towards building up the unity of the one People of God?
7. Evaluate the relations which your Christian community maintains with other
The Church Faced with the Problem of Sects
8. Describe briefly the religious situation concerning sects, syncretistic religious
movements and other spiritual currents. What are they? What type of activities are they
developing? What can the Church do to confirm believers in their faith in light of this
Evangelization and Culture
9. What is the Church doing to evangelize the world of culture (the arts, literature,
science, etc.)? How is the Church involved through programs of evangelization in the
various fields of education: primary or elementary, secondary or middle school,
10. What are the most significant elements in the cultures of indigenous groups,
African-Americans or immigrants--found in the territories of your country or local
communities--which deserve to be reconsidered or utilized as "seeds of
evangelization"? To what measure do these elements enrich Christian spirituality? To
what measure must they be purified of elements which are alien to the Christian faith?
11. What are the more significant characteristics of popular piety in your area and to
what extent are those aspects taken into consideration in pastoral planning? What place
does the Blessed Virgin Mary hold in popular devotion?
The Church and the Means of Social Communication
12. What is the Church in your area doing at present to promote the proper use of the
means of social communication and to make them useful tools at the service of the new
evangelization? Describe the Church's presence in the many forms of the so-called modern areopagus.
The Church and Social Solidarity
13. What activities are promoted by the Church in your area to offer assistance in
solidarity to those most in need, and how do the faithful respond in general to these
initiatives? What external collaboration, at the ecclesial or civil level, does the Church
receive for this aid of solidarity? Are there programs for forming a consciousness of
solidarity in persons or groups having a significant role in society?
The Church and Social Problems
14. What use is being made of the Church's social teaching in your area in the new
evangelization in light of the diverse situations which demand social action, e.g., human
development and promotion, migration, the problems of the world of work, etc.? What means
are being used to spread an awareness of the Church's social teaching within the Church
and beyond the ecclesial dimension?
The Church and the Promotion of Human Life
15. How does the Church promote respect for human life in all its phases, from
conception in the mother's womb to the point of natural death? Give concrete examples of
the sensitivity of the Christian community in your area concerning this aspect.
Other Common Themes
16. In light of the topic of the Special Assembly, give any remarks and suggestions on
matters common to the whole American continent which, in your opinion, have not been
treated sufficiently in the Lineamenta, or not included in the above series of
Vatican City 1996
(1) JOHN PAUL II, Inauguration Address, Fourth General Conference of Latin
American Bishops (12 October 1992), 17: L'Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in English,
21 October 1992, p. 8.
(2) JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente (10
November 1994), 3: AAS 87 (1995) 30.
(3) Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 429.
(4) SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the
Modern World Gaudium et spes, 22.
(5) Cf. CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Instruction on Christian Freedom
and Liberation Libertatis conscientia (22 March 1986), 99: AAS 79 (1987)
(6) Cf. PAUL VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi (8 December 1975),
75: AAS 68 (1976) 64-67.
(7) Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 160.
(8) Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio (7 December 1990),
37: AAS 83 (1991) 284.
(9) Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen
gentium, 63; cf. SAINT AUGUSTINE, Sermo CCXV, 4: PL 38, 1074.
(10)" Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Inauguration Address, Fourth General Conference of
Latin American Bishops, (12 October 1992), 31: L'Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in
English, 21 October 1992, p. 10.
(11) JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Mater (25 March 1987) 37: AAS
79 (1987) 410.
(12) Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente (10 November
1994), 59: AAS 87 (1995) 41.
(13) JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et paenitentia (2
December 1984): AAS 77 (1985) 199.
(14) Ibid., 4: AAS 77 (1985) 190.
(15) JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente (10 November
1994), 36: AAS 87 (1995) 27.
(16) Cf. Ibid.
(17) SAINT AUGUSTINE, Confessions I, 1: CCL 27,1.
(18) JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente (10 November
1994), 36: AAS 87 (1995) 27.
(19) Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis
(25 March 1992), 9: AAS 84(1992) 670.
(20) JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et paenitentia (2
December 1984), 13: AAS 77 (1985) 209.
(21) PIUS XII Radio Message to the National Catechetical Congress of the United States,
Boston (26 October 1946), Discorsi e Radiomessaggi, VIII, 1946, p. 288; cf. JOHN
PAUL II, Post- Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et paenitentia (2
December 1984) 18: AAS 77 (1985) 225.
(22) JOHN PAUL II, Angelus (14 March 1982), L'Osservatore Romano: Weekly
Edition in English, 22 March 1982, p. 2.
(23) ST. LEO THE GREAT, Tractatus 63 (De Passione Domini) 6: CCL
(24) Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 13-17.
(25) JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Evangelii vitae (25 March 1995) 76: L'Osservatore
Romano: Weekly Edition in English, 5 April 1995, p. XIV.
(26) SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis redintegratio,
(27) Ibid., 6.
(28) Cf. Ibid., 8-11.
(29) JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et paenitentia (2
December 1984), 2: AAS 77 (1985) 188.
(30) Cf. Statement released by the Bishops who head the Doctrinal Commissions of the
Latin American Episcopal Conferences, Guadalajara (Mexico), 6-10 May 1996: L'Osservatore
Romano: Weekly Edition in English, 15 May 1996, p. 12.
(31) Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
Lumen gentium, 6.
(32) Cf. Ibid., 7.
(33) Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the
Modern World Gaudium et spes, 40.
(34) Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic letter to the men and women religious of Latin
America for the Fifth Centenary of the Evangelization of the New World (29 June 1990),
22: AAS 83 (1991) 37.
(35) JOHN PAUL II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata (25 March
1996), 81: L'Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in English, 3 April 1996, p. XV.
(36) JOHN PAUL II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis (25
March 1992), 15: AAS 84 (1992) 680.
(37) Letter to Diognetus VI, I: FUNK, F., Patres Apostolici, Tubingae
1901, vol. I, 401; cf. Liturgy of the Hours, II, Office of Readings for Wednesday of the
Fifth Week during the Easter Season.
(38) SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution on the ChurchLumen
(39) Ibid., 23.
(40) Cf. Ibid., 24-27.
(41) JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio (22 November
1981), 21 d: AAS 74 (1982) 105.
(42) JOHN PAUL II, Letter to Women (29 June 1995), 2: L'Osservatore Romano:
Weekly Edition in English, 12 July 1995, p. 2.
(43) Cf. Ibid., 11; cf. SACRED CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH,
Instruction on the Question of the Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood Inter
insigniores (15 October 1976): AAS 69 (1977) 98-116; cf. JOHN PAUL II,
Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici (30 December 1988), 51:
AAS 81 (1989) 492-493.
(44) Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
Lumen gentium, 6-7.
(45) Ibid., 1.
(46) Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy
Sacrosanctum concilium, 10.
(47) Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Exhortation Catechesi tradendae (16 October
1979), 35-45: AAS 71 (1979) 1307-1314.
(48) Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
Lumen gentium, 39-40.
(49) Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis
(25 March 1992), 74: AAS (1992) 789.
(50) Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the
Modern World Gaudium et spes, 53.
(51) PAUL VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi (8 December 1975), 19: AAS
68 (1976) 18.
(52) JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Tertio millennio adveniente (10 November
1994), 34: AAS 87 (1995) 26.
(53) Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the
Modern World Gaudium et spes, 77-78.
(54) Cf. CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Instruction on Christian Freedom
and Liberation Libertatis conscientia (22 March 1986), 71-96: AAS 79 (1987)
(55) Cf. PAUL VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum progressio (26 March 1967), 20-21:
AAS 59 (1967) 267-268.
(56) JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo rei socialis (30 December
1987), 28: AAS 80 (1988) 550.
(57) Cf. Ibid., 29: AAS 80 (1988) 550.
(58) Cf. SACRED CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Instruction on Some Aspects
of the Theology of Liberation Libertatis nuntius (6 August 1984), V,8: AAS
76 (1984) 887; cf. JOHN PAUL II, Inaugural Discourse, Third General Conference of
the Latin American Episcopate, Puebla (Mexico), 28 January 1979, I, 2-9: AAS 71
(59) Cf. CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Instruction on Christian Freedom
and Liberation Libertatis conscientia (22 March 1986), 70: AAS 79 (1987)
(60) Ibid., 64: AAS 79 (1987) 581.
(61) Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae (25 March 1995), 4: L'Osservatore
Romano: Weekly Edition in English, 5 April 1995, I.
(62) JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Laborem exercens (14 September 1981), 3: AAS
73 (1981) 583.
(63) Ibid., 14: AAS 73 (1981) 613-614.
(64) Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo rei socialis (30 December
1987), 37: AAS 80 (1988) 563.
(65) Cf. Ibid. 38: AAS 80 (1988) 565.
(66) Cf. Ibid., 39: AAS 80 (1988) 566-568; Cf. PONTIFICAL COMMISSION
"IUSTITIA ET PAX", At the Service of the Human Community: An Ethical
Consideration of the International Debt (27 December 1986), Vatican City, Vatican
Polyglot Press, 1986, I-2, 5.
(67) JOHN XXIII, Encyclical Letter Mater et magistra (15 May 1961), 238: AAS
53 (1961) 456.
(68) JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Letter Mulieris dignitatem (15 August 1988), 30: AAS
80 (1988) 1724-1727.
(70) Cf. CONGREGATION FOR CATHOLIC EDUCATION, Guidelines for the study and teaching
of the Church's social teaching in the formation of priests (30 December 1988),
Vatican City, Vatican Polyglot Press, 1986, pp. 71-77.
(71) Cf. Ibid., p. 13.
(72) SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis redintegratio,
(73) Cf. PAUL VI, Discourse to the Council Fathers on the Occasion of the Closing of
the Third Session of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (21 November 1964): AAS
56 (1964) 1015.
(74) Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente (10 November
1994), 59: AAS 87 (1995) 41.