Brazil: Where Charity Becomes Ecumenical

Interview With Secretary-General of Bishops’ Conference

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BRASILIA, Brazil, FEB. 10, 2005 ( The 2005 Campaign of Fraternity, an initiative of the Brazilian bishops’ conference, has been made an ecumenical event this year.

Here, Auxiliary Bishop Odilo Scherer of Sao Paulo, secretary-general of the episcopal conference, speaks more about the event. This was an excerpt from an interview published by the episcopate.

Q: What is the theme of the 2005 Campaign of Fraternity?

Bishop Scherer: This is the 41st time that the campaign is held and it is part of the pastoral tradition of the Church in Brazil.

Its theme, in general with a strong focus on social life, helps to live the Lenten season in the dynamic of conversion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This year’s theme is «Solidarity and Peace» and the motto «Blessed Are the Peacemakers.»

Q: What were the reasons for choosing this theme?

Bishop Scherer: Peace is a profound desire of the heart, a real need and a human right. The proclamation of peace is also part of the Christian message.

As followers of Christ, we have the mission to promote and defend peace. We believe in the God of peace and in Christ Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

The theme of the 2005 CF is very timely, given the increase in violence at all levels of human relations.

Q: The 2005 CF is ecumenical. What does this mean?

Bishop Scherer: For the second time, the CF is promoted by churches that form part of the National Council of Christian Churches of Brazil [CONIC]. It is not actually a campaign of ecumenism, but an ecumenical activity, that is to say, the union of the efforts of the churches that promote the CF’s theme.

This joint action will certainly make ecumenism grow and shows that there are many things that unite Christians and enable them to act together in society.

Q: Is the theme of peace a concern of the Christian churches?

Bishop Scherer: Christians have the mission to proclaim the Gospel of peace and to witness to it with their lives and through their action in the world. When faced with violence, wars, threats to life, aggressions against human dignity, social injustices and the loss of ethical values in human relationships, we must all become promoters of peace.

Q: Peace is difficult to define, and can be attained in different degrees. What is the peace desired by the Church?

Bishop Scherer: Peace is the fruit of justice and love in human relations. It is also tranquility and the satisfaction of the most profound desires of the human heart.

Peace can be attained and experienced in several degrees, but total peace is found only in God. St. Augustine put it well: «You made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.»

The Church desires that true peace be achieved and assured to all, at all levels. She proclaims above all that peace in social life and of one’s personal conscience can be obtained only through an encounter with God, orienting life toward him, and developing a filial and trustful relationship in him.

Q: What are the main concerns of the 2005 CF?

Bishop Scherer: The 2005 CF proposes solidaristic action in favor of peace in society. In fact, peace is not only a personal and individual good; it is a good of the whole of society and depends on the solidaristic effort of all.

It is necessary to overcome the present violence, and to spread this to all levels of human coexistence: in the family, the school, the street, stadiums, work relationships, the action of organized crime, economic systems, wars, kidnappings and terrorism.

It is necessary to disarm hands and hearts. Moreover, in addition to the struggle against violence, those ethical values and attitudes must be promoted that make possible and ensure peace. There will be no true peace without respect for the person, for his dignity, for his life in any situation or stage of development.

Q: Violence is part of human history. Is there a way to overcome it?

Bishop Scherer: Human history is unfortunately charged with violence. Violence is a social plague, which stems from the loss of ethical values that should correct personal life and human coexistence.

The spread of violence is the symptom of a sick and disoriented culture and generates a lifestyle in which the positive achievements of civilization become obfuscated. The cure of violence comes from the promotion of policies that are adequate for society and from appreciating personal and social attitudes geared to overcoming violence.

Q: How can the culture of peace be promoted?

Bishop Scherer: There is an education to violence and an education to peace. Education to peace is fundamental, from childhood and adolescence.

The culture of peace presupposes solidaristic attitudes and effective respect for the dignity of every person. Violence is not combated with violence, but with the promotion of the state of law and the conscious and voluntary rejection of violent means to resolve conflicts.

Q: What is the ecumenical contribution of peace?

Bishop Scherer: It is expected that religions will be promoters of peace, and not the contrary. The Christian Churches can make an important contribution in the promotion of the culture of peace in society and they will carry out this mission better if they are united in their efforts.

Peace begins at home. Peace in churches and among the churches is the new Commandment of Jesus to his disciples and can be an example for the necessary overcoming of divisions and conflicts in society.

Q: Does the CF also address people who are not members of any of the Christian churches?

Bishop Scherer: Certainly. Peace is a good for all and depends on the solidaristic effort of all. Initiatives to promote the culture of peace and to overcome violence merit the support of all.

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