Aparecida 88-97: Indigenous and Afro-American Peoples

Numbered sections 88 through 97 address the Presence of indigenous and Afro-American peoples in the Church.

In resurrecting this series, rather than reproduce things word for word, I’d rather take a wider view on some topics, and go into depth only on the matters of evangelization and mission.

The Latin American bishops recognize the “racial mix that is the social and cultural foundation of our Latin American and Caribbean peoples.” Note the presence of three “roots,” as we have in North America: indigenous peoples, those uprooted from Africa, and people from Europe, who mostly arrived poor and needy. (88)

As in North America, the indigenous and African descendants “demand respect and recognition. Society tends to look down on them, ignoring their uniqueness. Their social situation is marked by exclusion and poverty. The Church accompanies the indigenous and Afro-Americans as they struggle for their legitimate rights.” (89)

Inequality exists within Latin American cultures as it does in the North. Lives of people of color matter there, as they do here. Threats exist on many fronts: “physical, cultural, and spiritual existence; in their ways of life, their identities, and their diversity; in their lands and projects.” (90)

A partial laundry list:

  • Some indigenous communities are away from their lands because those lands have been invaded and degraded,
  • (T)hey do not have enough land to develop their cultures.
  • They suffer very serious assaults on their identity and survival, because economic and cultural globalization jeopardizes their very existence as different peoples.
  • Their gradual cultural transformation leads to rapid disappearance of some languages and cultures.
  • Migration compelled by poverty is deeply influencing change of customs, of relationships, and even of religion. (Ibid.)

In the section that follows, the bishops recognize that social movements on behalf of those of non-European descent are an opportunity for the Church. This is not a new message, as conferences prior to Aparecida endorsed this view.

Section 93 offers a list of values congruent to Christianity:


  • Openness to God’s action
  • the sense of gratitude for the fruits of the earth,
  • the sacred character of human life and esteem for the family,
  • the sense of solidarity and stewardship for work performed in common,
  • the importance of worship,
  • belief in a life beyond this earth.

Church values encouraged include integration into church life.

  • Biblical and liturgical translations into non-Romance languages (94)
  • Promoting vocations to religious life and to the clergy (Ibid.)
  • Proclamation of Christ and the Good News of the Reign of God (95)
  • Denouncing social sin and injustice (Ibid.)
  • Fostering dialogue between cultures, across Christian divides, and with other faiths (Ibid.)

Section 95 endorses less explicit preaching about Jesus and more of an “encounter.”


Hence, the greatest treasure that we can offer them is that they come to the encounter with Jesus Christ Risen, our Savior. The indigenous people who have already received the Gospel are called, as disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ, to live their Christianity with great joy, to give the reason for their faith within their communities, and to collaborate actively so that no indigenous people of Latin America will abandon its Christian faith, but on the contrary will feel that in Christ they find the full meaning of their existence.

The bishops are not blind that people of African or native American descent have suffered in particular ways south of the Rio Grande as they have north of it. Sections 96 and 97 bring a bit more focus to the plight of black persons in Latin America. This section concludes with a look on the bright side:

Latin America has very vibrant Afro-American communities which contribute and participate actively and creatively in building this continent. Movements for the recovery of identities, for citizen rights and against racism, alternative solidarity income-generating groups are enabling black women and men to be architects of their own history, a new history that is taking shape in Latin America and the Caribbean today. This new reality is based on intercultural relations where diversity does not mean threat, and does not justify hierarchies of power of some over others, but dialogue between different cultural visions, of celebration, of interrelationship, and of revival of hope. (97)

Thoughts or comments?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in 2007 Aparecida document, bishops, evangelization and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s