The bishops seek to recognize both the continuity of their message and the new challenges they need to face. They see their meeting at Aparecida as a new step in continuity with Vatican II and the previous general conferences. (¶9)
Yet they acknowledge new challenges in terms of …
“pervasive discontent which is spread by new social and political turbulence, by the expansion of a culture distant from or hostile to Christian tradition, and by the emergence of varied religious offerings which try to respond as best they can to the manifest thirst for God of our peoples.” (¶10)
In light of this they identify the purpose of their meeting, citing Pope Benedict’s Inaugural address:
“the great task of guarding and nourishing the faith of the people of God, and also of reminding the faithful of this continent that by virtue of their baptism, they are called to be disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ.”
Therefore, they call the church to
a deep and profound rethinking of its mission and relaunch it with fidelity and boldness in the new circumstances of Latin America and the world…. What is required is confirming, renewing, and revitalizing the newness of the Gospel rooted in our history, out of a personal and community encounter with Jesus Christ that raises up disciples and missionaries. (¶11)
The church needs to avoid retreating with a pessimistic view of the world: “It cannot retreat in response to those who see only confusion, dangers, and threats”. Nor should it retreat in the face of “those who seek to cloak the variety and complexity of situations with a mantle of worn-out ideological slogans, or irresponsible attacks.”
Neither retreat nor obfuscation serve the challenges to faith in Latin America. What are needed, the bishops insist, are “new men and women”
who incarnate that tradition and newness, as disciples of Jesus Christ and missionaries of his Kingdom, protagonists of new life for a Latin America that seeks to be rediscovered with the light and power of the Spirit. (¶11)
A reductionist faith cannot respond well to the challenges of the twenty-first century. In fact, the bishops see such a faith as the greatest danger and call for our Christianity identity comes from an encounter with the event of salvation, Jesus.
They characterize this reductionist faith as “the gray pragmatism of the daily life of the church”. The description of this type of faith might sound familiar, since there are echoes of these words in the sermons and speeches of Pope Francis:
A Catholic faith reduced to mere baggage, to a collection of rules and prohibitions, to fragmented devotional practices, to selective and partial adherence to the truths of the faith, to occasional participation in some sacraments, to the repetition of doctrinal principles, to bland or nervous moralizing, that does not convert the life of the baptized would not withstand the trials of time. (¶12)
The way out is the encounter with Christ. Citing from Pope Benedict’s encyclical Deus caritas est, they write:
We must all start again from Christ, recognizing that “being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.