Latin American church leaders call for “inclusive church”

Latin American church

Nearly 1,000 Latin American and Caribbean church leaders called for a more “inclusive and synodal church” following a week-long assembly in Mexico.

The participants envisaged a church that pays attention to people’s realities, opens increased roles for women and excluded groups, combats clericalism, and continues taking the Gospel to the peripheries of society.

Bishops, priests, men and women religious, and the lay faithful gathered from November 21-28 at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in suburban Mexico City for the first-ever “Ecclesial assembly of Latin America and the Caribbean”.

The unprecedented gathering was organised by the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM), a council of the Roman Catholic bishops of Latin America including 22 national bishops’ conferences, and the Latin American Confederation of Religious Men and Women (CLAR).

The event took place in two phases. The first phase consisted of listening sessions throughout the region, while the second phase was the actual assembly.

“It was a space for participation, a lot of diversity and a lot of listening, which is a novelty,” said Consolata Father Venanzio Mwangi Munyiri, coordinator of the Afro-Colombian ministry of the Archdiocese of Cali, Colombia.

“Listening to the cries of each person, of the experiences, enriches the vision of the church on the continent and naturally also challenges the way we evangelise.”

Cardinal Ouellet, who also heads the Congregation for Bishops, said participants must “become aware of their missionary identity.”

The identity was detailed in the assembly’s final document, “We are all missionary disciples going forth,” from all participants, not just bishops. It described a “church going forth” from the parishes to the peripheries. It is a vision outlined by then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) in the document he edited at the Latin American bishops’ fifth general conference in Aparecida, Brazil, in 2007.

This assembly’s final document, released on Nov 27, embraced the call, saying, “We reaffirm in this ecclesial assembly that the path for experiencing the pastoral conversion discerned in Aparecida is that of synodality.”

Participants said that synodality, or listening, must occur within the church itself, along with a need to address the role of women and the impact of clericalism.

The document continued: “The church is, in itself, synodal. Synodality belongs to its essence. Hence, it’s not a passing fad or an empty slogan. With synodality we are learning to walk together as a church, as the people of God, involving everyone without exclusion in the task of communicating the Gospel with joy — as missionary disciples going forth.”


National Catholic Reporter

La Croix International

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