Each year the Dominican Episcopal Conference (CED) issues two official documents: a pastoral letter published on January 21, on the occasion of the feast of Our Lady of Altagracia, protector of the Dominican people, addressed to all the parishioners in which it deals with a theme of faith from the biblical-doctrinal and theological-pastoral aspects; and a Message published on February 27, National Independence Day, addressed to all Dominicans, in which she deals with issues of national interest, proposing and suggesting wise socio-political orientations from the light of faith and the social doctrine of the Church. In this brief article I would like to present the two documents published this year 2021.
The Pastoral Letter
The Pastoral Letter of January 21, 2021 is entitled: "Our Lady of Altagracia, a gift from God to the Dominican people". It is a document with two clear objectives: to bring words of encouragement and hope to our people (in the face of the various sufferings caused, in a special way, by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic) and to prepare the hearts of Catholic Christians for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the canonical coronation of Our Lady of Altagracia, which will be celebrated with a Jubilee Year that will begin, God willing, on August 15, 2021 and will conclude on August 15, 2022.
To achieve these two objectives, the bishops recall the gift that the Lord has given us from the very origins of our history, in the miraculous image of Our Lady of Altagracia, while highlighting the Marian devotion of the Dominicans. On the other hand, in accordance with the Aparecida document, they present the Virgin as "model of missionary disciple and intercessor on behalf of her children. Finally, they invite us to renew our faith through an ardent devotion to our spiritual mother, welcoming like her the Kingdom of God, while entrusting all the Dominican people to her powerful protection.
Message for the month of the homeland
The message of February 27, 2021, is entitled: "The message of February 27, 2021.And let us show the world that we are brothers". In this brief document, the bishops, as shepherds of our people, drawing inspiration from the encyclical Fratelli Tuti of Pope Francis, and in one of the poems of the patrician Juan Pablo Duarte, from which they take their title, they try to answer a key question: what does it mean to build fraternity on Dominican soil today? And they respond by making the following statements:
In the first place, the fraternal spirit is built in the home, but they denounce that not all families have the same possibilities, hence the duty of the state to create the necessary conditions for all families to develop healthily in a stable environment. In this sense, as a concrete action, they invite the Catholic universities to organize an open symposium to help define an authentic family policy suitable for the whole Dominican society.
Secondly, in the face of the drama of abortion and the "throwaway society", they emphasize that there is no true fraternity without caring for human life in all its stages and expressions.
A universal fraternity
Thirdly, the construction of a universal fraternity. In this sense, they motivate to cultivate a healthy nationalism, that is, a sense of Dominicanity that does not close in an exacerbated national feeling and closed to the foreigner or the different, much less from our reality as believers; in this tenor, in communion with the Holy Father, they encourage to overcome the fear that today provokes the encounter with migrants and foreigners, and rather, to let ourselves be enriched and complemented with their gifts and talents.
Fourth, corruption breaks with fraternity as a nation. The Bishops recognize that Dominicans, as a demand for justice and vindication of their personal dignity and that of the people, have gradually become more aware of this scourge. However, they also call not only to claim their just rights, but also to make an examination of personal conscience so as not to fall into the bad practice of only seeing the speck in another's eye (cf. Mt 7:3-4).
Show that we are brothers
Finally, "...And let us show the world that we are brothers". Today, as yesterday, independence remains a pending task, "which must be carried out patiently and courageously on the basis of the right of all peoples". However, the right is not enough, it is necessary to raise "universalizable political emotions" that serve as an engine for political commitment. In this sense, our national anthem reflects this feeling in one of its stanzas when it says: "No people deserves to be free if it is a slave, indolent and servile, if in its breast the flame does not grow that tempered the virile heroism". Finally, our pastors recognize the spirit of welcome and solidarity that characterizes us as Dominicans, while carrying a message of hope exhorting us not to lose faith in the midst of difficulties and to continue "showing the world that we are brothers."
Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic