viernes, 18 de mayo de 2007


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Those who are supposed to know more say that today, Tuesday, is one of the most important days in the Conference. Today’s program contemplates the participation by the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences of every country in Latin America and the Caribbean. Each one of these men (as we know, this is a hierarchy of men only) has exactly seven minutes that are controlled by a traffic light with a yellow and a red light. At the seventh minute, without exception, when the threatening red light shines, the volume of the microphone turns out. Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes, President of the Mexican Bishops’ Conference, has already experienced the cruelty of color when his speech was cut before he ended his words.

Up to now, when there are still a few minutes left in the morning session, those who have spoken include fifteen Bishops, in this order: Carlos Aguiar Retes (Mexico), José Francisco Ulloa (Costa Rica), Miguel Ángel Morán (El Salvador), Álvaro Leonel Ramazzini (Guatemala), Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga (Honduras), Leopoldo José Brenes (Nicaragua), José Luis Lacunza (Panama), Robert Kurtz (Antilles), Juan García Rodríguez (Cuba), Luis Kébreau (Haiti), Roberto Octavio González (Puerto Rico), Ramón Benito De la Rosa (Dominican Republic), Luis Augusto Castro (Colombia), Néstor Rafael Herrera (Ecuador), and Julio Terrazas Sandoval (Bolivia). The pattern of their speech is similar for all of them. They first present some statistical data of their National Conference, then the major challenges and finally the most relevant proposals.

And those who mentioned the importance of this day were right, because this is when the list of topics to be dealt with in the coming days will be defined. The Synthesis Document is a reference text, as well as the Pope’s inaugural speech. But the topics to be debated in the Commissions will be decided on right now. That’s why the President, Francisco Javier Cardinal Errázuriz (Chile), requested everyone to listen to the presentations attentively in order to detect the common topics and priorities stated.

Several common topics were mentioned, including the deep cultural changes and their implications for pastoral work, the chaotic effects of the neo-liberal model and the increasing poverty, the need to make catechesis more dynamic, the defense of the family facing the threats of divorce, abortion, pre-marital sex and infidelity. Other topics were repeated, but I would like to highlight the open fear expressed by the bishops for the growth of non-Catholic religious groups. Once and again they used expressions like “anti-Catholic Protestantism”, the “attractive offer of the sects”, the “advance of evangelical proselytism”, the “ground conquered by Pentecostals and neo-Pentecostals”, and, the most disqualifying of all, “the invasion of syncretistic sects”.

During the break, one of the laywomen who were present (and they are very few) came close to Dr. Néstor Míguez and me to express her apologies for the anti-sectarian avalanche in the session. Cardinal Errázuriz, too, when the second session started, made public clarifications asserting that when the word “sects” has been used it does not refer to historic Protestants, or to those evangelicals present, or to Pentecostals. These gestures of courtesy are to be appreciated.

But—who has the last word concerning ecumenism in official statements? I don’t know. Benedict XVI has given some protocol expressions of rapprochement. The same applies to the documents of the Magisterium (with due exceptions). But the reality of National Conferences, in these regions of the world, is different. On the other hand, in community grassroots, which are the most important level, ecumenical encounter and collaboration is enjoying good health. It is, then, in the official circles of Latin America and the Caribbean where it now seems to be suffering from a new cold. Let’s hope it recovers before this new CELAM Conference is over!

In the meantime, in my opinion, the traffic light of official ecumenism is an intermittent yellow light.


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