By Lisa Zengarini
Brazilian bishops have expressed deep gratitude to Pope Francis for his “merciful and paternal closeness” shown to the Brazilian people in the Covid-19 crisis. In a letter sent during their 58th Plenary Assembly, taking place from 12-16 April in a virtual format, they also thank the Holy Father for his “countless efforts” to promote unity within the Church and dialogue with other Churches, religions and cultures.
The letter recalls the recent Apostolic Journey to Iraq and the Pope Francis' latest initiatives and teachings, including the Encyclical Letter “Fratelli tutti" on Fraternity and Social Friendship, the Year of St. Joseph and the Family-“Amoris Laetitia”, the Global Pact for Education and the “The Economy of Francis” initiative.
Living through a dramatic situation in Brazil
Referring to the difficult times Brazil is going through due to the pandemic, bishops highlight the critical issues the Country is facing, namely, the weakness of public policies, the government's inability to deal with the crisis, widespread denial in some sectors of Brazilian society, the politicization and ideologization of the pandemic and the additional suffering caused to Brazilians by being prevented from bidding proper farewell to their loved ones who died from coronavirus. At the same time, they draw attention on the many gestures of solidarity shown across the Country in the past year. "The pandemic has taught us to act with evangelical charity, to help the most vulnerable, in a beautiful and creative pact for life and for our suffering Brazil,” the prelates note.
The Word of God at the focus of the meeting
The message then goes on to illustrate the central theme of the meeting focused on the Word of God, in the light of the General Guidelines for Evangelization Activities in Brazil (DGAE), which were established by the Brazilian Bishops’ Conference (CNBB), following the Fifth Episcopal Conference of Latin America and the Caribbean held in Aparecida in 2007. “Inspired by the biblical image of the seed (Mt 13: 1-9) we want to immerse ourselves in the Mystery of the Word of Christ, in the challenges of sowing this seed in our time”, because “knowing the Scriptures means getting to know Christ. Announcing this Word with new zeal, new methods, new witness is an urgent mission”, the bishops emphasize.
Bishops’ commitment to fight sexual abuse
The letter also reaffirms the bishops’ commitment to fight sexual abuse in the Church, explaining that all Brazilian dioceses are setting up diocesan services for protecting of children, adolescents and the most vulnerable, as requested by Pope Francis. It further recalls the particular relevance for the Church in Brazil of the Synod for the Amazon convened in October 2019 and of the subsequent Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Querida Amazonia".
Looking forward to first Ecclesial Assembly of Latin America and the Caribbean
Finally, Brazilian bishops say they are praying that the first Ecclesial Assembly of Latin America and the Caribbean, scheduled next November in Mexico on the theme "We Are All Outgoing Missionary Disciples", be an opportunity reinvigorate the hopes and expectations of the Aparecida Conference, of which - they write - Francis was a "decisive participant".
The preparatory text of the session, aimed at finding new paths for evangelization in the light of the present challenges facing the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean, was illustrated to the Assembly by Archbishop Héctor Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte, President the Latin-American Episcopal Council (CELAM), on Tuesday.
Other topics on the agenda
Other important topics on the agenda of the meeting are: the analysis of the current socio-political situation in Brazil and the Covid-19 crisis in Brazil, which were discussed on Monday, the national Year for Vocations, which the Brazilian Church will celebrate in 2023, the current Year of St. Joseph and of the Family – “Amoris Laetitia” and the National Eucharistic Conference due in November.
19 million Brazilians living in hunger
On Tuesday bishops also discussed the Fraternity Campaign 2022, the annual solidarity initiative which the Church in Brazil celebrates during Lent and which next year will focus on education. On Wednesday, Bishops approved an important document on Biblical animation of pastoral care in missionary communities and were presented with a report on the solidarity initiative “É tempo de cuidar” (“It’s time to take care”). The campaign was launched in April last year to provide food to vulnerable people who have been hardly hit by the pandemic. According to findings presented to the meeting 19 million Brazilians live in hunger at present.