The Ecclesial Assembly for Latin American and the Caribbean takes place this week from 21-28 November 2021. An event that involves lay people, religious and clergy, it is the fruit of a decision taken by the bishops of the region at Aparacida, Brazil, in 2007 that “the laity should participate in discernment, decision taking, planning and execution” with respect to life in the Church.
“More recently, CELAM began a process of synodal restructuring in 2018 that was carried out with the participation not only of the continent’s bishops but also of other ecclesial subjects — laity, religious, priests — and other ecclesiastical institutions,” explains Professor Rafael Luciani, an advisor to the Latin American bishops and the Synod of Bishops. Rafael also delivered the inaugural Cardijn Lecture this month.
The major preparatory document for the Assembly is the “Document for the journey” structured in the classical see-judge-act format and published by CELAM.
Entitled “The life of our peoples in Latin America and the Caribbean,” the first part of the document sets out the major issues facing both society and the Church today.
As well as the Covid crisis, it points to the problems of social and economic structures that have turned against human beings. It points to the ecological crisis, growing exclusion, throwaway culture, gaps in education, growing violence, migrants as the new poor. It highlights the challenges facing Indigenous communities.
At a political level, it points to the problems of “democratisation” and “globalisation” as well as the challenges of an information society.
With respect to the Church, the document points to the challenges posed by growing secularisation, the rise of evangelical churches as well as issues facing women and young people in the Church. It also addresses the sexual abuse crisis and the problem of clericalism.
Moving to the judge section entitled “The encounter with Jesus enlightens the life of our peoples,” it emphasises the need to grow as followers of Jesus, to move out in a missionary way. Moreover, it clearly links evangelisation with the tasks of human promotion and authentic liberation.
Finally, Part III is entitled “On the way to personal, community and social conversion,” also echoing Cardijn’s classical formula on the need to transform “life, milieu and mass.”
It focuses on several areas for action, including the need to promote “integral ecology,” a solidarity-based and sustainable economy at the service of the common good, a culture of peace, interculturality, the promotion of democracy and renewal of the Church.