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More From the Bishops in Brazil: "Great Continental Mission?" PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 25 May 2007 12:31
Very interesting reports are coming out of the CELAM gathering, in light of our many discussion on ID about the mission and formation of the laity. Via Catholic News Service (http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0702981.htm)

The first draft of the document coming out of CELAM is concerned with:

"The fundamental question of how to inspire Catholics to take ownership of their faith, seek a personal conversion that leads them to follow Jesus, and live out that commitment in the church and the world. The church leaders must candidly examine trends in both society and the church that lead some Catholics to join evangelical groups while a much larger number remain Catholic in name only.

In the description of "light and shadows" in the church, many of the strengths listed -- such as catechesis, liturgy, base communities and the use of the media -- are areas that bishops cited in the first two weeks of their conference as needing improvement or reinforcement. The draft describes weaknesses, including an overemphasis on sacraments to the detriment of the other aspects of faith life; financial troubles; clericalism; and discrimination against women and indigenous people. However, it offers few concrete steps toward solutions.

Nearly half the draft is devoted to the theology underlying the bishops' views of discipleship and mission, with specific sections devoted to issues such as vocations and formation. The document emphasizes the need to make Scripture central to Catholic life, a constant theme since the pope's speech May 13. It also notes the centrality of the Eucharist, a difficult challenge in a region with an average of one priest per 7,000 parishioners.

Christian initiation, continuing formation and Catholic education are seen as key to developing a sense of missionary discipleship. This must be further nourished through participation in groups such as base communities or lay movements, which are given relatively equal weight in the document, although they tend to reflect different ideological stances.

the greatest expectations were not of a document, but of a "great continental mission" that would breathe new life into evangelization.

Little was said about the mission until May 24, when Cardinal Claudio Hummes of Brazil, who now heads the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy, raised the subject in the assembly. Afterward, he told journalists that the goal is not to convert non-Catholics, but to reach baptized but inactive Catholics.

Some bishops envision door-to-door canvassing, while others say that is not the main thrust. They must still define how and by whom the mission will be carried out.

One prelate commented that the region's conferences of bishops differ in their degree of enthusiasm and preparedness for such an effort. Another pointed out that before a "great continental mission" can be launched, the church needs high-quality promotional and training materials.

The bigger question, however, is to what kind of church lapsed Catholics are being invited to return. If it is structurally the same one they left, there is no reason to expect them to stay. Unless the bishops answer that question, neither the final document nor the great continental mission will have the desired effect."


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