Gap Between Rich and Poor Seen Widening in Mercosur

Bishops Issue Warning at Meeting

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BUENOS AIRES, SEPT. 20, 2002 ( Bishops of the countries that make up the South American trade bloc Mercosur expressed their concern over the widening gap between the rich and poor in the area.

The bishops, who came from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay, are members of the executive commissions or presidential councils of their respective episcopal conferences.

At a three-day meeting — the third of this level to be held over the past decade — they pastorally analyzed the process of integration of Mercosur as well as of the Southern Cone countries of America.

The participants paid special attention to strengthening respect for the culture and traditions of each nation, in view of the accelerating regional integration and the phenomenon of globalization.

During the meeting, which ended Wednesday, concern was expressed over the widening «gap between the rich and the poor, the geometric process of social exclusion, and the fragility of political plans geared to establishing a much-awaited justice by all the peoples of the region,» a final statement said.

The bishops considered alternatives to «multiply the sources of work, to guarantee regional migrations, including access to health services and education,» in the framework that respects cultural and religious aspects of people.

«The bishops attempted to respond to John Paul II’s appeal that the Church be a ‘home and school of communion'» despite the «brevity of the meeting,» the prelates’ statement added.

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