Offsetting the Proselytism of Sects By Commitment to New Evangelization

Author: CEDES


Bishops of El Salvador

Pastoral Communiqué from Bishops of El Salvador May 3, 1990

To the Priests, Religious and all the Laity of the Church on pilgrimage in El Salvador and to all people of good will: Grace and peace in the Risen Christ, our Passover.

I. Doctrinal Premises

Faithful to our mission as Bishops, the legitimate successors of the Apostles, established by the Holy Spirit to shepherd the Church (cf. Acts 20:28), we wish to carry out our responsibility to proclaim authentic Christian Tradition in the light of God's Word and the consistent magisterium of the Church that:

1) There is only one God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit; God-Love, living and personal, there are no other gods than He (cf. Ex 20:3; Mt 28:19).

2) God our Father makes Himself visibly present in Jesus Christ, true God and true man, Lord of history and Saviour of humanity (cf. Jn 1:14).

3) By the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ was born of the Holy Virgin Mary according to the Scriptures (cf. Is 7:14; Mt 1:22-23); that makes her deserving of singular honour, since she is truly the Mother of God, therefore generations call her blessed (cf. Lk 1:48).

4) Christ the Lord institutes the Church as a community of salvation; He desires her to be united in faith, in authority, in the sacraments and in love; with a plurality of charisma, roles and ministries, certainly, yet united "in one flock" (Jn 10:16), "in one body and one Spirit" (cf. Rom 12:4-5; Eph 2:16; 4:4:; Col 1:18; 3:15).

5) In the face of the experience of sin, the baptized must heed the Lord's Word calling us to conversion. On the evening of the Resurrection, Christ Himself entrusted to His Apostles the power to forgive sins: "Receive the Holy Spirit, whose sins you shall forgive are forgiven them; whose sins you shall retain they are retained" (Jn 20:22-23).

6) The Lord Jesus entrusted His Church to His Apostles and put Peter at their head (cf. Mt 16:18; Jn 21:15-17; Eph 2:20).

7) Our Lord gave the Apostles and through them all their legitimate successors the power needed to govern the People of God in His name with a three-part catholicity:

—Go into all the world (catholicity on a territorial level);
—Baptize all peoples (catholicity on a personal level);
—Teach all that you have been commanded (catholicity on a doctrinal level) (cf. Mt 28:19-20, 18-18, Jn 20-21-23).

8) To ensure continuity for the work of Jesus, the Apostles designated the Bishops as successors and communicated to them the respective power through ordination and the imposition of hands (cf. Acts 6:6; II Tim 1:6; Tit 1:5; Acts 20:28).

9) St. Paul expressed his sorrow because Christians of his day were allowing themselves to be tricked by those who preached "another Jesus" or a "different Gospel" from what he preached (II Cor 11:4), because some "are quickly going to another gospel" and some "are disturbing the people and wish to pervert the Gospel of Christ", and he did not shrink from hurling anathemas against those doing such things (Gal 1:6-9).

II. Reasons for this Message

We have been led to direct this message to you for reasons of a strictly ecclesial nature, such as:

1)The Pope's invitation to engage in a new evangelization as a preparation for the celebration of 500 years since the coming of the Catholic faith to our continent and the beginning of the third millennium of Christianity; these are very challenging events for the Church.

2) Because of our commitment to make a contribution to the Fourth General Conference of the Latin American Bishops which will be held in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic in 1992.

3) Because the Catholic Church's vitality is seen, among other ways by the following indications:

—Bible groups
—Apostolic groups
—Lay movements
—New dioceses
—Increase in priestly and religious vocations
—Well-organized parishes
—The Church's concern for the salvation of the whole person and society, and especially for the victory of peace.

4) Because many laity and priests have asked us to give some guidance regarding the proselytism of Protestant sects which has increased in recent months in the countryside and through their messages in the mass media.

Protestant proselytism has the following characteristics:

—A multiplicity of "Churches", sects and religious groups of a certain type which have been multiplying and growing in E1 Salvador for several years, aided by the law on religious freedom.

—These groups have different roots, names, forms of worship and leadership, and they are distinct as well regarding very important doctrines of the faith and moral teaching.

—Some offer an easy and permissive Christianity in matters of faith and morals, in contradiction to the truth of Jesus' Gospel.

—Many of these groups have at their disposal great sums of money for buying media time and for attracting to their ranks people who need material help.

—Protestant sects find fertile soil for their proselytism in the religious ignorance of many, in the sociopolitical resentments which others have, and in the desire which many have for something new.

III. Pastoral Applications

Faithful to our mission as Bishops of the People of God on pilgrimage in El Salvador, we end this message with some words of exhortation:

1) We urge Catholics not to be seduced by their subtle and bold propaganda, sustained by economic imperialism.

2) We ask owners of the media to be aware that many of the messages spread by these groups run counter to the interests of the true Christian faith and the religious unity of our people.

3) The religious groups and sects to which we are referring are destroying the unity of the nuclear family by attacking its true Christian faith which can be summarized in three truths which have shaped our traditional religious practice and our national historical identity: the love of Christ in the Eucharist, devotion to the Virgin Mary and respect for and veneration of the person of the Pope, as Successor of Peter and Vicar of Christ on earth, visible centre of the Church unity desired by Jesus.

4) To those who because of sociopolitical pretexts have separated themselves from the Church and to those who have changed their way of living at the urging of another religious group, we say, to the former: you ought to become better acquainted with the Church's social teachings; and to the latter: you do not have to change your faith or leave the true Church in order to change your lifestyle.

5) We urge the authorities to be attentive to the enforcement of article 25 of the Political Constitution which protects freedom of worship but which also requires that the public and the moral order be safeguarded by protecting the tranquility of homes and communities against deafening and insulting broadcasts.

6) We ask the sons and daughters of the Church:

—to study more deeply God's Word and the true teaching of Jesus as taught by the Church magisterium,
—To live more fully their faith with frequent participation in the sacraments, especially Reconciliation and Eucharist
—To witness to the faith we profess by good works in daily life,
—To spread the Catholic and apostolic faith.

7. And we pray for one another that the true light of Jesus may enlighten our lives and that the Lord's own prayer will be fulfilled soon: "That all may be one, as you, Father, in Me, and I in You, that the world may believe that You sent Me" (Jn 17:21).

We entrust our communities to the maternal protection of Mary who by Christ's will was in the company of the Apostles and shaped a part of the history of our salvation.

Given at the headquarters of the Bishops' Conference of El Salvador

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
27 August 1990

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