Aparecida 6-8: The Giftedness of Latin America and the Caribbean

The bishops now turn, in paragraph 6, to give thanks to God:

We accept the entire reality of our continent as gift: the beauty and fertility of its lands, the richness of humanity expressed in the [persons]*, families, peoples, and cultures of the continent. Above all, we have been given Jesus Christ, … a priceless treasure, …Way, Truth and Life of men and women, to whom he opens a destiny of utter justice and happiness.

Jesus is identified in terms that reflect the Latin American concern for liberation, though in theological rather than political terminology:

He is the sole Liberator and Savior, who with his death and resurrection broke the oppressive chains of sin and death, and who reveals the merciful Love of the Father, and the vocation, dignity, and destiny of the human person.

The bishops then, in paragraph 7, recognize faith in God and the Catholic tradition in the people’s life and culture as their greatest riches. This is shown in “the mature faith of the baptized and in popular piety.”

They cite Pope Benedict’s list of several aspects of Latin American piety:

“the suffering Christ, the God of compassion, pardon and reconciliation… love for the Lord present in the Eucharist …the God who is close to the poor and the suffering; the profound devotion [to Mary] invoked under various national and local titles.”

In my experience the suffering Christ, the Eucharist, and Mary are the most evident elements of Latin American spirituality. The other elements noted are there, but not as strong.

The bishops also add

[Faith in the God of Love] is also expressed in the charity that everywhere inspires deeds, projects, and journeys of solidarity with the most needy and defenseless. It is also at work in consciousness of the dignity of the person, wisdom about life, passion for justice, hope against all hope, and the joy of living even under many difficult conditions that move the hearts of our peoples.

Charity, solidarity, and justice are concerns of many in Latin America, but I am not sure they are as widespread as the bishops state, though the way the poor share with other poor is something that continues to surprise me.

But solidarity and passion for justice, I would say, are most present where the Church has placed itself on the side of the poor and their empowerment. Yet the growing urbanization in Latin American presents major challenges to solidarity and the sense of community.

Referring to the culture that reflects that faith, the bishops add that:

The Catholic roots remain in their art, language, traditions, and way of life, at once dramatic and celebratory, in facing reality. Hence, the Holy Father further charged us as Church, with “the great task of guarding and nourishing the faith of the people of God.”

In paragraph 8, the bishops note the role of Catholic tradition as a foundation for the identity of the region.

The gift of Catholic tradition is a foundation stone of Latin American and Caribbean identity, originality, and unity: a historical-cultural reality marked by the Gospel of Christ, a reality abounding in sin—disregard for God, wicked behavior, oppression, violence, ingratitude, and misery–but where the grace of the paschal victory abounds even more.

The bishops seem a bit a sanguine about the church in Latin America, proposing that …

Despite its weaknesses and human failings, our Church enjoys a high degree of trust and credibility among the people. It is the dwelling place of people bound together as family and home of the poor.

Though the percentage of Catholics is declining in most of the region, there is still a lot of confidence in the Catholic Church, a confidence that may be increased with the presence of Latin American pope.


Note: The translator of the Aparecida Document as well as the translator of Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium at times translate “persona” or “personal” as “individual” which reflects, I believe, an individualistic notion of the person. In my commentaries I will amend the text to “persons” or “personal.”

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

About John Donaghy

Permanent deacon, ordained in the Catholic diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán, Honduras, in 2016. Missionary in Honduras since June 2007, living and working in the parish of Dulce Nombre de María.
This entry was posted in 2007 Aparecida document, bishops, evangelization, Guest Writers, John Donaghy. Bookmark the permalink.

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