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Solidarity as cure for ills of the Americas

Following are excerpts from the 57-page document, "Encounter with the living Jesus Christ: The Way to Conversion, Communion and Solidarity in America" being prepared for an upcoming Synod of Bishops of the Americas.

... The problems referred to most often in these documents are: poverty, injustice, migration, international economic relations, the spread of multinational corporations, the free market, external debt, disparity in development and an unequal distribution of resources between North, Central and South America, the lack of solidarity, the clandestine drug trade, the situation of women in some countries, the rights of ethnic minorities (primarily those of indigenous peoples and African-Americans), health care, etc. New problems must be added to this list, which have recently resulted from scientific advances in the area of bioethics, above all in matters concerning genetic manipulation. ...

Employment is a particularly important social problem. Experience teaches that economic growth may cause difficulties in employment. Pope John Paul II has placed the topic of work at the center of the social question in his encyclical letter Laborem Exercens: "Human work is a key, probably the essential key, to the whole social question, if we try to see that question really from the point of view of man's good. ... The fundamental affirmation underlined in this same document becomes basic ... the means of production cannot be possessed against labor, ... because the only legitimate title to their possession -- whether in the form of private ownership or in the form of public or collective ownership -- is that they should serve labor."

Another subject deserving attention is the relationship of transnational corporations. These have acquired great power in recent years and are assuming greater importance with the market's becoming more global. This increase of power must be commensurate with a greater responsibility on the part of the executives of these corporations.

... These few observations on the social situation in America will serve no purpose, unless the possible causes of the problems be pointed out and some means to overcome them suggested. The guideline for reflection must always be the documents of the church in the social field. The church places the most emphasis on the moral causes of these social problems. In the encyclical letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, Pope John Paul II clearly affirms that, among the attitudes to be kept in mind as contributing to the economic imbalance, are "the all-consuming desire for profit, and the thirst for power." Such attitudes give rise to acts of omission or negative acts of commission, which end up creating structures of sin, in turn aggravating the divisions existing among the few who have much and the many who have little.

... Therefore, Pope John Paul II proposes, the cultivation of the virtue of solidarity. Solidarity is understood to be a morally necessary reaction to the existing of injustice in social conditions which many individuals suffer today. ... Growth in this virtue will be motivated by an awareness of the interdependence which unites all people in a common destiny. Each person achieves salvation through assuming the responsibility of working for the salvation of others.

... The responsibility of the pastors of the People of God (bishops and priests) in the above-mentioned areas is clear and certain. A valuable contribution in this area is made by men and women religious, those belonging to apostolic movements and those in other institutes. These dedicated people work with families, children and young people. They run centers of charity and assistance. They work in schools or live among the poor, bringing the witness of their love along with their assistance in solidarity.

... In this commonly shared task of solidarity the laity have a decisive role. A great potential for generosity in response to human suffering and need exists in the Christian laity of North, Central and South America. Past and recent history is filled with examples of this effective cooperation at the time of natural disasters or social or political conflicts (wars, guerrilla attacks or other more or less chronic problems of a social or cultural nature.)

In all parts of the continent, solidarity is enriched by the vitality and spontaneity of young people. They have within themselves as enormous capacity for self-giving. They await from their pastors the invitation which Christ addressed to the workers in the marketplace: "You go into the vineyard too" (Mt 20:4). Yesterday and today alike, they respond to this call, e.g., as priests or religious, consecrated persons, lay missionaries, lay volunteers, etc.

The family also plays a primary role in forming new generations to practice solidarity towards those in need. The example and witness of parents is decisive in teaching children and adolescents to be sensitive to others an to have an altruistic attitude. Woman, to whom God "entrusts in a special way man, that is, the human being," has a very important role in the field of solidarity. Indeed, she "cannot find herself except by giving love to others." Woman's proper participation in the church, in accordance with her particular vocation to life and love, makes her an effective agent of solidarity at the service of the gospel.

National Catholic Reporter, October 25, 1996