Sunday, May 20, 2007

Yanks in Aparecida

Opened by Pope Benedict last week at the Marian (Redemptorist) Shrine of Aparecida in Brazil, the CELAM plenary continues for another ten days. Each morning's session of the decennial summit of the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean begins with the Eucharist celebrated in the shrine basilica by a different prelate from each country.

As previously mentioned, alongside senior Vatican officials and the heads of other major episcopal conferences from the global church, a five-member delegation from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops is participating in the gathering.

CNS caught up with 'em the other day:
The United States was "an unspoken theme" in the first days of the gathering, as bishops from Latin America and the Caribbean described problems related to immigration and globalization, said Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces, N.M., an observer at the May 13-31 Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean.

"There is an undercurrent that many of the things that affect Latin America have their origin in the United States," Bishop Ramirez said.

Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, headed the U.S. delegation, which included Bishop Placido Rodriguez of Lubbock, Texas; Auxiliary Bishop Jaime Soto of Orange, Calif.; and Msgr. Carlos Quintana Puente, executive director of the bishops' Secretariat for the Church in Latin America.

Bishop Skylstad was one of four bishops from outside Latin America and the Caribbean who could both speak and vote at the meeting. The others were the presidents of the bishops' conferences of Canada, Spain and Portugal. All four countries have large numbers of Latin American immigrants.

Being granted a vote in the conference was "a bit of a surprise," as well as a sign of the close collaboration between the Catholic Church in the U.S. and the Catholic Church in Latin America, especially in Mexico and Central America, Bishop Skylstad said.

"I'm here to listen and to learn what the situation here is so that we can be of greater assistance and solidarity" with the church in Latin America, he said.

Besides immigration, other common concerns of the church in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres include "evangelization, the need for conversion, the need to be more people of the word, (and) the need to deal with justice issues," he said....

"That happens in the United States as well," Bishop Skylstad said. "It calls us to ask ourselves (if we are) doing things as well as we should be -- whether it's our liturgical celebrations, whether it's our continued formation of people, whether it's an active faith community that really reaches out and cares about people."

While "it's easy to criticize evangelicals," he said, the Latin American bishops are focusing on what the church is "not doing that we should be doing that will attract people and hold them and be a genuine Catholic community of faith."
And what would a CELAM piece be without a line from the gathering's most-quoted prelate?
"We feel a shared responsibility for the evangelization of Hispanics" in the United States," said Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. "I would like to propose that each diocese collaborate with the bishops of the United States in the evangelization of their own people" who have migrated.