Aparecida 43: Cultural diversity, without synthesis

With paragraph 43, the bishops begin their analysis of the socio-cultural situation, specifically discussing globalization’s effect on culture. This analysis continues to paragraph 51.

Accordingly, social reality, which in its contemporary thrust we describe with the word “globalization,” impacts more than any other dimension our culture and the way in which we become part of it and draw from it.

The bishops begin in paragraph 43 by acknowledging the diversity of cultures in Latin America.

The variety and wealth of Latin American cultures, ranging from those that are more indigenous to those that with the movement of history and racial mixing of its peoples, have gradually been settling in nations, families, social groups, educational institutions, and shared civic life, constitutes a fact that is quite obvious to us and one that we value as a singular treasure.

There is no single Latin American culture. This is an important point for non-Latin American readers. Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay are much more European in their culture. Ecuador, Bolivia, and to an extent Peru have strong indigenous influences. Guatemala’s Mayan indigenous cultures are not the same as the Inca influence in Peru and the Aztec influence in Mexico. I even detect real differences between the culture of Honduras and its neighbor El Salvador.

The bishops, though, are concerned about the lack of a synthesis.

What is at stake today is not this diversity that the mass media can individualize and record. What is lacking is rather the possibility of this diversity converging into a synthesis, which, encompassing the variety of meanings, can project it toward a common historic destiny.

The bishops hope for shared meaning as well as a shared sense of purpose – or, as they write, “a common historic destiny.”

Their reflection takes a rather unique direction, looking to popular religiosity, especially Marian devotion.

Therein lies the incomparable value of the Marian spirit of our popular religiosity, which under different names, has been able to merge different Latin American histories into a shared history: one that which leads to Christ, Lord of life, in whom the highest dignity of our human vocation is achieved.

Every country in Latin America has its own Marian feast and usually a national shrine. In not a few cases the Marian image and shrine have a strong connection with poor persons who finds the image (Suyapa in Honduras, Aparecida in Brazil, Cobre in Cuba) or with a campesino to whom Mary appears (at Guadalupe in Mexico). Mary has a decided role in the poplar religiosity –with prayers, processions, and more. In some places I have heard priests praying the Hail Mary after the Our Father during the Eucharist. In many cases it is added as a special prayer at the end of the Mass – before the final blessing

Some Latin American theologians have recognized this place of Mary in the spirituality of the people and have sought to bring to the fore the revolutionary aspects of Mary’s Magnificat.

Whether this religiosity leads to a spirituality centered on Christ is. I believe, an open question.

Also I am not sure that the shared history reflected in popular devotion to Mary can provide a key to the task of working toward a common historic destiny.

Here is the USCCB translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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About John Donaghy

lay missioner with the Catholic diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán, Honduras, since June 2007, helping in the parish of Dulce Nombre de María.
This entry was posted in 2007 Aparecida document, bishops, evangelization, Guest Writers, John Donaghy and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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