Latin American Prelates Emphasize Care for Workers

Unite Efforts at Evangelizing World of Labor

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SANTIAGO, Chile, JULY 28, 2010 ( A seminar currently under way in Santiago is analyzing current pastoral care for workers in Latin America and suggesting ways in which bishops can improve this ministry.

The seminar, which began Monday and ends Friday, is focusing on «The Pastoral Care of the World of Labor in a Globalized Economy.»

The objective is to support the episcopal conferences of that region in organizing and strengthening the pastoral care of workers, including unofficial workers and the unemployed.
Some 35 people from 14 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean are participating in this initiative, which has been promoted by the Department of Justice and Solidarity of the Latin American Episcopal Conference (CELAM).

The seminar is analyzing the pastoral care of laborers in each of the conferences, and is applying principles from the Word of God and the social doctrine of the Church.

Using these guidelines, participants are working to define common lines of pastoral care in terms of missionary discipleship, and to establish common bases and criteria for this ministry.

Archbishop Pablo Lizama of Antofagasta, Chile, president of the Pastoral Care of Labor of the Episcopal Conference of Chile, welcomed the participants in the opening address of the seminar.

He expressed the joy of sharing same goals with all of the participants, and thanked them for having chosen the Chilean Church as the venue for the event.

Modern reality
Bishop José Luis Azuaje of El Vigia-San Carlos del Zulia in Venezuela, who is in charge of the «Laymen Builders of Society» Section of CELAM’s Department of Justice and Solidarity, also addressed the seminar participants.
He expressed the hope of «sharing experiences and apprenticeships of what is being done in the area of pastoral care of the world of labor and to single out reflections that will help us to situate ourselves in the reality in which we find ourselves in this dimension, and together discern perspectives, from our pastoral dimension, for a better service.»
The prelate explained that the justice and solidarity department is organized in three sections: social pastoral care, human mobility, and laymen builders of society.

«Through the programs carried out by each one of these sections,» he said, «we respond to the permanent challenges of society and are enabled to get closer to the different social dimensions with the mission of making the Good News of Jesus Christ present in all realms of society.»

«With this profound concern, we are able to get closer, as the Latin American and Caribbean Church, to the complex and rich world of labor,» Bishop Azuaje said.
He affirmed that «the world of labor is very complex; it has to do with the economy, politics, business and culture, but primarily it has to do with the family in its development and perspective of the future.»

«All these dimensions that make up society have a strong impact on the organization and strengthening of the world of labor in our continent,» the bishop said.

He noted, «We try to reflect to come closer to the reality of the world of labor, and, with creativity, to find new ways of commitment to evangelization in this dimension.»

Concrete life
The prelate emphasized the «necessary landing of the Church’s evangelizing process, in the concrete life of men and women workers, beginning with an understanding of the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God in our concrete history and cultures.»
«Hence,» he added, «we need to promote and to form missionary disciples in the world of labor, exacting from us that we listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church in regard to this dimension.»
Bishop Azuaje explained that there is double aspect to this: participation in God’s creative work and in the service of brothers and sisters.
Quoting the concluding document of the 5th General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, held in Brazil in 2007, he said: «Jesus, the carpenter (cf. Mk 6:3), honored work and workers, and reminds us that work is not a mere appendage to life, but that it ‘constitutes one of the fundamental dimensions of man’s existence on earth,’ by which man and woman fulfill themselves as human beings. Work guarantees the dignity and freedom of the human being, and is probably the essential key to the whole ‘social question'» (No. 120).
The prelate continued: «This invites us to enter into intimate communion with God and the re-creation of what he himself wills in regard to the dignifying of persons. Work is essential in personal life and in the service of brothers; it is the guarantee of personal and community fulfillment.»
The prelate asserted, «The preferential option for the poor and the situation of injustice and poverty that our peoples live expressed in suffering faces, must challenge us in the search for new pastoral proposals in the different countries, as well as in the exercise of the prophetic dimension of the Church, to share with and to support those who most suffer the injustices of unemployment, of child and forced labor, of mistreated and exploited women, as well as those brothers and sisters who do not have social security or are threatened by political or ideological issues.»

«Many are the realities of pain that this dimension expresses, but many also are the opportunities of service for the Church,» he added.
Bishop Azuaje concluded by inviting the participants to engage in «reflections with full liberty» from their «personal and community experiences, with an attentive look at what is happening in the culture of our time, keeping in mind the objective of giving effective help to the episcopal conferences of our continent.»

«We must listen to one another from the different perspectives of our countries,» he said. «There is much conceptual wealth as well as good pastoral practices in this dimension of the life of persons.»

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