Aparecida is in danger: The “great continental mission” called for by the Latin American bishops in 2007 may die in Rome this month, with long-term consequences for the vitality of the Church in South America.
As the Synod of Bishops on the Pan-Amazon Region comes to the end of its first week, the central outcome is still in the balance. The synod must kill one of two documents. They propose competing visions of the Church’s presence in South America, and one must prevail. The other will die.
What document will the synod kill? The much-maligned synod working document, which downplays evangelization in favor of ecology and a certain romantic primitivism? Or will they kill Aparecida, in the presence of the very pope who was its principal drafter 12 years ago?
Both cannot survive. And if the favored vision of the synod is its working document, then Aparecida is dead, and the synod fathers will have proved themselves betrayers of the pastoral vision of Pope Francis.
The stakes are that high. The “missionary discipleship” that goes out to the “peripheries” has been the Holy Father’s constant refrain from the beginning. Yet at the synod to date, it does not look good for Aparecida, as the apparent consensus of the deliberations thus far has not sharply challenged the working document, which retreats from the mission and is rather light on discipleship.
The working document, released in June, has been subject to withering criticism for months.
“Copious in the text are cultural, ecological and socioeconomic themes,” wrote Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, emeritus of Caracas, in a three-part series for the Register that exposed the profound weaknesses of the text. “Less plentiful, but extremely more important, are the proposals for evangelization and pastoral action.”
So vehement was the criticism that by the time the synod opened, few voices bothered to defend it substantively. The preferred line — repeated by Pope Francis and by Cardinal Lorenzo Baldiserri, head of the synod secretariat — was that it was a “martyr text.” As the basis for discussion, it is meant to “die,” giving way to a new text that expresses the fullness of the synod deliberations.
If so, someone will have to kill it. Who might that be?
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