The cry of the poor, the cry for life amidst the cry for a new way of being the Church. This is not an official account, not does it intend to be, of the event that took place in Medellin this past August. It is a personal reflection, the fruit of my own experience.
In Medellín, we took on the cry of the poor, the cry for life, and the cry for a new way of being the Church. Coming from all over the continent and the Caribbean, there gathered about 500 people to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 2nd General Conference of the Latin American Episcopate in Medellin, using the motto: "Prophecy, Communion and Participation."
Thus, we re-launched the option for the earth and impoverished people who are subject to a socioeconomic system of exclusion that prevails in the continent and which often makes us feel powerless.
In the face of numerous and incessant aggressions against Mother Earth, caused by state- sponsored multinational companies through mining, hydroelectric facilities, oil companies, agro-industries, and logging companies, as well as shocking socioeconomic inequality, growing violence, political corruption, militarism, climate change, migration and mass displacement, and the progress of an agenda that systematically violates people’s rights, we heard that tumultuous cry for life, which, demanding justice, reaches God, from the lips of the poor and the belly of the earth.
We reflected in many ways about the opportunity that is offered in the encyclical Laudato Sí and Pope Francis’ common good agenda, which he continues presenting to us vehemently. This invitation encourages us to work together to change this reality by caring for our common home: humanity/Earth.
However, much of our time was spent on the news of the scandals that came from the Church in Philadelphia, the letter of the ex-nuncio Viganò who asked for Pope Francis’ resignation, and the power struggles of a Church that is fractured in its essence and severely weakened in its credibility. In this context another cry was clearly heard, this time coming from inside, the cry for the urgency of a new way of being the Church today. It was said, in various ways, that the hierarchical structure has a lot to do with everything that is happening to us.
The sexual, economic, and power abuses, and that of the control of conscience that Francisco has condemned in his last letter to the “Pueblo de Dios”, have much to do with a model of a clerical and hierarchical Church that refuses to die against the overwhelming proposal of the Council’s reform that has asked for a “Pueblo de Dios” Church.
In this reconciliation model, the equality of the baptized highlights a path of prophecy, communion, and participation. Although, from Medellín 68 until today, women and secular people have gained some significant spaces in ecclesial life, injustice, gender violence, inequity and the marginalization of these groups persists in discernment, in decision-making and in the carrying out of programs that make the Church new. This could all be the real example of our decision to continue listening and to walk in the direction marked by the cries of life: it is in those cries that God calls and speaks to us.
A voice of solidarity and commitment was raised for the victims of the abuses of the clergy that cause deep shame and indignation for us.
Nowadays, the cry of the poor and the earth and, in them, the cry of life is inseparable from the cry for a new Church in which all human and economic resources and ecclesial structures are oriented with resoluteness and solidarity towards what it is essential: caring for life on this earth, our common home, which is in danger and stress, and for the defense of abused, marginalized and excluded people, just as Jesus did and proposed in his Gospel.
For those of us who work at the UN representing catholic-based NGOs and religious congregations, this is a particularly challenging time. Today our work has become more difficult due to the weakened credibility of the church worldwide. There are always those who doubt our proposals and agenda. It is necessary to define our options clearly and our commitment to continue to contributing with humility to the implementation of the UN 2030 agenda that places the global alternative for the common good over the individual good. The common good and not only that of the 1% of the population, which continues enriching itself through its almighty capacity to impact and corrupt corporation’s political world and through the consumption it imposes on the anonymous masses, which is a model that makes life on the planet unsustainable in the medium and long term.
Currently, establishing strategic alliances that advance the proposal for a renewal of the church, which favors life and impoverished people, is urgent. This is why it is important to continue being in communion with the Global Catholic Climate Movement, World Council of Churches, Churches and Mining Network and Pan Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM in Spanish), among others, and join the preparation for the Amazon’s synod, which will take place in October 2019, along with Latin America’s social movements, in which indigenous people must be given special focus.
It is also important that, for the sake of believers, our presence in the UN, and in every place where we may find ourselves, we work for the creation of permanent, virtual and face-to face groups of guardians of the creation.
In addition, we, the clergy, have an important role in the renewal of the Church based on a new lifestyle that encompasses the reinterpretation of the charismatic nature of our community in light of the challenges of this time in history, the effective and brave experiences of new, more prophetic, non-clerical ecclesiastical ways, and the communion and true participation of women and secular people who renew the structures of the Church from the inside.