3 Argentine Bishops Report in Rome on Country's "Table of Dialogue"

Episcopate Keeping Lines of Communication Open

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VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 5, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Three Argentine bishops spoke in Rome about their homeland’s crisis and the Church’s role in trying to solve it.

Bishops Juan Carlos Maccarone, Jorge Casaretto, and Ramon Artemio Staffolani — the prelates who are members of the country’s Table of Dialogue — gave their impressions at a public conference held Wednesday at the Argentine Embassy in the Vatican.

Bishop Maccarone of Santiago del Estero said that, among the causes of the social, economic and political crisis, must be pointed out a «pseudo-magical» idea of the state, from which supposedly one can ask or demand anything.

A second problem is the «sale of the state,» a scheme whereby the state forgets its responsibility toward the common good, the bishop said.

As early as Dec. 27, the Argentine bishops discussed the need to create a Table of Dialogue as a useful instrument to hear all social sectors and restore social peace.

Between Dec. 20 and Jan. 2, Argentina saw five presidents, widespread looting and about 30 deaths from street confrontations. The Argentine peso has lost 70% of its value vis-à-vis the U.S dollar since a devaluation in January.

The Table of Dialogue was created officially by Argentine President Eduardo Duhalde on Jan. 14. Its priority is to respond to the situation of 1.4 million new poor resulting from the crisis. The official guarantors of the process of dialogue are the Catholic Church in the country and the United Nations.

Bishop Casaretto of San Isidro, president of Caritas, said that the ongoing dialogue in Argentina has heard from more than 2,000 individuals and 200 institutions, representing a cross-section of society as well as the country’s 23 provinces.

Each group, which has addressed the Table, has been given one hour to speak. A half-hour is reserved for the commission to decide whether what has been said is consistent with the common good. Lastly, one hour is allocated to respond to concerns and questions that arise during the meeting.

«I am one of the 15 Argentines who has had the opportunity to hear the whole of Argentina,» Bishop Casaretto said.

Because of the dialogue, additional social benefits have been made available to the neediest. Other assistance includes the policy of substituting the sale of brand medicines with lower-cost generic ones.

The result of the dialogue process, which is complemented by an economic-social-productive Table and a Table of Justice, has materialized in an official document entitled «Foundations for the Reform,» an instrument to spell out the imperative of the common good in Argentina.

«We, the bishops, have the moral responsibility for the steps taken and we are working directly with the people,» the president of Caritas said. «The extraordinary plenary assembly of the Argentine episcopate will take place at the end of September.»

Bishop Staffolani, of Villa de la Concepcion of Rio Cuarto, explained that the bishops’ contribution to the Table of Dialogue is taking place in keeping with the mission of the Church to be a place of listening and enlightenment for people.

«Please, let’s not stop talking, let’s not interrupt the dialogue,» he said.

In describing the role of the Catholic Church at this juncture, Bishop Staffolani acknowledged the decisive help given by Caritas, as well as by associations and lay people.

Presidential elections in Argentina have been scheduled for March. The next government will have to keep in mind the «Foundations for the Reform,» which resulted from the Table of Dialogue, the Argentine bishops concluded.

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