Juan José Omella: "God's desire is emerging". 

The 121st Plenary Assembly of the Spanish Episcopal Conference brings together the Spanish bishops this week with different challenges on the table.

Maria José Atienza-April 17, 2023-Reading time: 6 minutes
episcopal conference

Cardinal Omella, president of the Spanish bishops, gave a speech that, although shorter than usual, accurately pointed out the lines and challenges facing the Spanish Church at this time.

The Archbishop of Barcelona began his opening speech at the 121st Plenary Assembly of the Spanish Episcopal Conference by recalling the recent death of Benedict XVI and the tenth anniversary of the beginning of the pontificate of Pope Francis.

The emerging longing for God  

One of the most interesting points of this speech was the growing yearning for God in today's society. In this sense, Omella affirmed that "just as secularization began in the urban world and is now affecting the rural world, we discover that the desire for God is emerging in the cities and, in time, we hope that it will also reach the rural world. We believe that we are living the beginning of a new springtime of the Spirit. We thank God for this gift".

A springtime that also entails the challenge of preparing the whole Church to welcome and accompany all those who approach the light of Christ.

A common challenge, which appeals to the evangelizing responsibility born of the Baptism of all Christians. "It is the people of God who evangelizes" Omella recalled.

At this point, the Cardinal also wanted to recall some of the key points of the document Faithful to missionary sending which outlines the pastoral axes and lines of action of the Spanish Church in these years.

Discovering the role of the laity

Omella praised the "new initiatives of evangelization, promoted by the laity in communion with their pastors, are helping both the laity themselves and ordained ministers to rediscover what is proper to them and to increase coordinated and synodal action" but he stressed that "this is not the most usual mission for the majority of the laity. God does not call the laity to abandon the world when they profess their faith; on the contrary, the 'world' becomes the sphere and the milieu of their vocation, in which they must seek their sanctification".

For the President of the Spanish Bishops, "the most important challenge we have now is to awaken in the multitudes of lay people the vocation they have received from Jesus Christ so that, united with him, they can exercise their mission to be salt and light for the world, to be the leaven that transforms society to make it more human, dignified and fraternal. They are the face, the voice and the arms of God in the midst of the world.

In this line, Omella wanted to point out that "to help the laity rediscover their mission in the midst of the world, the bishops of the EEC have recently published the document The faithful God keeps his covenant" and encouraged to make it known to all the faithful".

In view of the upcoming elections, the president of the bishops listed eight points to keep in mind:
1. Promote the dignity of the person
2. To venerate the inviolable right to life.
3. To be free to call on the name of the Lord.4 4. The family, the first field of social commitment
5. Charity, the soul and support for solidarity
6. We are all recipients and protagonists of the policy.
7. Placing the human being at the center of economic and social life.
8. Evangelizing the culture and cultures of mankind

He also encouraged the laity "to encourage a social movement in favor of the common good that proposes, not imposes, the Catholic vision of the person, marriage and the family, as the leaven of a more fraternal and humane society, sensitive to the poorest and most needy.

Family and parental rights

Omella has referred extensively to the importance of protecting and encouraging the family in which the "greater part of humanity reaches the fullness of love".

"We are a family society and this is not only compatible with being modern, but it makes it possible for us to be so," stressed the cardinal, who described the family institution as "an alternative to the model of individualistic, utilitarian and disconnected modernity, which is causing so much psychological and emotional damage to people and which in the end makes social life and human development unsustainable".

The president of the Spanish bishops also demanded respect for the freedom of parents to educate their children according to their convictions. On this point, he defended an educational proposal that promotes an affective-sexual education oriented to the way of loving or Latin and not selfish "far from any objectification of the person, free from gender ideologies, and that promotes a path of learning".

The president described the reality of the "dizzying increase in depression, anxieties, existential anguish, eating disorders, addictions, suicidal thoughts and attempts, which are affecting not only adults, but particularly children, adolescents and young people" that responds to a desire for God that is not adequately responded to from the premises of the relativistic society in which we find ourselves.

A "secular confessional" state

The lack of freedom and the frequent obstacles that the administration places in the way of the freedom of parents in Spain also had its place in the opening speech of this Plenary.

Omella has explicitly called for the implementation of a school voucher as a solution and support for the true neutrality and freedom that we demand from the competent Administration.

The obligation of a "certain educational model, ideological affiliation, or ownership of the school" already means a lack of Freedom, in Omella's words. "Our State would be becoming a secular confessional state, discriminating against Christian citizens or citizens of other religions" by opting for a single model, said the president of the EEC.

Accompanying life from beginning to end 

The president of the Spanish bishops has made a "vital" journey to encourage and ask for a social and Christian commitment to accompany and help the most vulnerable in all stages of life. In the case of the beginning of life, the cardinal appealed for a "serene reflection that goes to the roots of the problem and seeks real alternatives and significant economic aid for mothers who face, often alone, a pregnancy".

He also referred to the thousands of refugees and immigrants, stressing "the importance of integrating into the defense of human life the care of people who arrive at our borders, the majority".

One of the novelties of this speech was the introduction of the problem of mental illness as one of the points to be addressed and reflected upon as a Church. Specifically, the Cardinal pointed out that "the drama of suicide cannot be separated from these mental health problems and the lack of meaning in existence. We consider the alarming increase of suicides, especially among young people".

Finally, Omella called for help for families to take care of their elderly with dignity, as well as "a social and institutional dialogue on the care of the elderly. In addition, it is key to create channels to listen to their voice and to give them space".

The Archbishop of Barcelona has once again expressed his "rejection of the law that regulates euthanasia. We call for the approval of a comprehensive law on palliative care and dignified aid for dependency that, with the necessary resources, allows us to accompany people in a truly humane way in the final phase of their lives".

Child abuse

The umpteenth request for forgiveness and the management of cases of sexual abuse within the Church closed the speech of Cardinal Omella in this plenary.

"We have asked for forgiveness for this great sin and we will continue to ask for it," began Cardinal Omella, who affirmed that "we want this scourge to disappear from our society. For this reason, we continue to collaborate with the judges, the public prosecutor's office and the ombudsman, providing all the information we have and activating our protocols".

"Without shying away from our responsibilities," the Cardinal Archbishop of Barcelona regretted that "for the moment this painful question is not being addressed in its global dimension and that there is an insistence on analyzing this drama exclusively in the sphere of the Church. The Church confesses its sin, but denounces that this same fact, which affects many other sectors of society, is not brought to light, in order to seek together a solution that encompasses the full extent of this social problem".

The varied and important challenges facing the Spanish Church were reaffirmed by the Apostolic Nuncio in Spain, who had words for the humanitarian corridors of migrants, the Apostleship of the Sea and the need to support the presence of Christians in the public space.

The Spanish bishops will continue the meeting throughout the week. The final conclusions will be announced at a press conference scheduled for next Friday.

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