The bishops of the United States, Africa and Latin America stand in solidarity with each other and should continue to collaborate on the issues facing their people and the whole Church, said the chairman of the International Justice and Peace Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in two international addresses in July. Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, spoke at the opening of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), July 8, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and at the general coordinating meeting of the Conferencia Episcopal Lationamerica (CELAM), July 29, in Rio de Janeiro.
Speaking against the backdrop of World Youth Day, Bishop Pates thanked the Latin American bishops for the “gift” of Pope Francis, saying, “His message about the poor, humility, social justice, mercy and profound personal encounter with Jesus Christ our Savior resonates powerfully in the United States.” Bishop Pates acknowledged the role of CELAM in helping to formulate the pope’s message, especially through their 2007 Aparecida document on evangelization.
Bishop Pates also expressed the desire of the U.S. bishops to continue collaborating with their Latin American counterparts on issues of common concern. “The problems of drugs, mining and extractives, arms, the environment and immigration are common to all our nations,” he said. “Let us seek possible answers with you for the good of our people and our Church.”
Speaking in Africa, Bishop Pates noted the rapid growth in size and influence of the Church in Africa and highlighted how, especially where civil governance is weak, the Church is a trusted and organized force for good. “You have spoken out against the problems and injustices created by the exploitation of oil in Africa,” he said. “Some of you have set up national level electoral monitoring networks to bring to light fraud and abuse that have tainted national elections. You have issued moral statements against corruption, fraud and abuse committed by local governments. Other national conferences have brought ethnic and religious communities in conflict together to rebuild the social fabric of society and create the foundations of sustainable peace.”
Bishop Pates said he was proud of the collaboration between USCCB’s International Justice and Peace Committee and the African bishops. “Together we have worked with the United States Government to increase development and humanitarian assistance,” he said. “We have encouraged the government in Washington to adopt policies that would promote justice and peace. Lastly through the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa we are working to support the pastoral efforts of the Church.”
Bishop Pates noted that 2013 is the 50th anniversary of the encyclical letter “Pacem in Terris” by Blessed John XXIII, which he called “the foundational document for all of us dedicated to peace building.” In both addresses, Bishop Pates praised the impact priests from Latin America and Africa are having in dioceses in the United States and voiced his gratitude to their bishops.
SECAM’s 16th plenary was held July 8-15, in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. The meeting’s theme was “The Church in Africa in service of reconciliation, justice and peace.” Among the attendees there were seven cardinals, including Cardinal Christian Tumi of Cameroon, who gave the opening address, Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo of the Congo, and SECAM president Cardinal Polycarp Pengo of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. Also in attendance were 125 bishops and secretaries general of national and regional Catholic bishops’ conferences from Africa and Madagascar.
The CELAM meeting was July 29-August 1. It included representatives of 20 different national bishops’ conferences, as well as Cardinal Marc Ouellet, president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras.
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On the NET:
For Bishop Pates’ Address to CELAM, go to:
For Bishop Pates’ Address to SECAM, go to: