Latin America

Regional Assembly of the continental phase of the Synod of Synodality in the Central America and Mexico Region

The continental stage of the Synod of Synodality in the Central America and Mexico region closed its regional assembly with a call to place Christ at the center of the Church's life.

Néstor Esaú Velásquez-February 26, 2023-Reading time: 8 minutes
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Photo: Participants in the meeting of the continental stage of the Synod of Synodality in the Central America and Mexico region ©Néstor Esaú Velásquez

From February 13 to 17, the regional assembly of the synod of synodality in the Central America and Mexico region took place, thus carrying out its discernment process in this continental stage. This first of the four meetings to be held in the region was held at the Casa de convivencia Familia de Nazareth, located on the road to Puerto de la Libertad in the municipality of Zaragoza, El Salvador.

The invitation that resounds during this stage is that of "Enlarge the space of your tent" (Is. 54:2), this quote taken from the prophet Isaiah has given the title to the working document for the continental stage of the synod of synodality, a document that aims to unite the voices of millions of people around the world and serve as a document for study, reflection and discernment during this part of the process and in a special way during these continental and regional meetings.

For the Central America and Mexico region there were 91 participants from the different Episcopal Conferences of the region: bishops, priests, lay people, representatives of consecrated life, indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants gathered to live days of listening and discernment in this synodal process that has been underway since 2021 and will conclude in 2024. In the words of Father Pedro Manuel Brassesco, Assistant Secretary General of CELAM: "The primordial thing is to dispose oneself to listen to the Spirit, it is not about proposing lines of action for the Church or making a list of proposals.... in these meetings we are going to work on the document for the continental stage which is precisely what marks us and what gives us references in this stage, in this phase that we are living always based on the methodology of spiritual conversation, that is to say, to dispose ourselves to listen to the Spirit that is expressed in the other, that is expressed in us and in this way then, we are building consensus to take a step further, to propose precisely to what will be the synod assembly in October what the Spirit is telling us in Latin America and the Caribbean".

Inauguration of the Regional Assembly

The first part of the meeting took place in the Chapel of the Hospitalito in San Salvador, the place where St. Oscar Arnulfo Romero was martyred. Monsignor José Luis Escobar Alas, Archbishop of San Salvador welcomed the participants of the Regional Assembly: May the Holy Spirit come to us through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. and may he guide us in this very important work of synodality of the Central America and Mexico region, CAMEX, and may he grant us the grace of a true spiritual dialogue that renews and encourages us in our missionary work in synodality for the good of our continent and of the universal Church". Monsignor Luigi Roberto Cona, Apostolic Nuncio of El Salvador in his opening remarks pointed out: "We have begun in the Golgotha of Latin America... I want this to be the motto of this meeting: Feeling with the Church, the episcopal motto of Monsignor Romero... There is a danger and that is that we remain in technicalities; co-responsibility is a word that I want to join to the motto of St. Oscar Romero, Feeling with the Church, urges us to live this co-responsibility, this synodality within the framework of the mission of the Church; this task is indispensable and most urgent.

Monsignor Miguel Cabrejos, ofm. President of CELAM in his words addressed to the participants of the Regional Assembly in the Chapel of the Hospitalito emphasized on "Learning the art of discernment in community in order to move forward". The inaugural Holy Eucharist was held in the crypt of the Metropolitan Cathedral of San Salvador, before the tomb of St. Oscar Romero, Monsignor Miguel Cabrejos pointed out: What are the new challenges for our region of Central America and Mexico, the challenges in the light of Aparecida, of the Ecclesial Assembly, of the magisterium of Pope Francis and of the signs of the times that challenge us, call us, invoke us, also ask us, we can ask ourselves how can we renew once again our commitment so that our peoples have full life in Jesus Christ, walking ecclesially and synodically towards the Guadalupan Jubilee in a special way and the Jubilee of the Redemption of 2033? Faced with these questions we say it once again, the harsh reality challenges us, the harsh reality of Latin America and the Caribbean especially in some countries challenge us to continue being a Samaritan Church, incarnated in the preference of those whom Jesus loves most, a Church that also shows firmness in the footsteps of Christ for humanity and that nourishes our hope.

Spiritual conversation methodology

The methodology was based on the foundation of spiritual conversation as a roadmap for active listening and community discernment, the assembly members were organized in small communities of life, in these spaces was favoring the environment of listening, dialogue and discernment especially around the document for the continental stage, the agenda of the days of the regional assembly CAMEX followed the same pattern every day; the first moment of the morning was a moment of spirituality and then in the communities of life was encouraged dialogue having three important moments: intuitions or resonances present in the document, tensions and discernment of where the Spirit is leading us distinguishing priorities, at the end of the day there was a sharing and resonances or echoes of the listening process. The day concluded with the Holy Eucharist.

On Friday, February 17, the agenda varied a little, having the presentation of the experience of the digital synod, an initiative that has opened the participation of thousands of brothers, especially young people through digital platforms, at the conclusion of this presentation was held the meeting of communities of life, organized on this occasion by vocations, concluding at noon with the Eucharist presided by Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas, Archbishop of San Salvador.

The dynamics of the spiritual conversation favored dialogue and listening in spite of encountering realities that provoke tension. In several groups the word that resonated was discernment, discovering between the echoes of this listening and the signs of the times, what comes from God and what does not, what springs from my own desires and what is God's desire, so as not to fall into passing fashions that take us away from God's plan. Some expressions of this process were: to return to our roots, to let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit, to assume our co-responsibility, openness, dialogue, the meaning of ministry as service, the need to create processes, accompaniment of the different realities, interior conversion, the importance of formation and the ecclesial dimension of the People of God. During this Regional Assembly, Sister Dolores Palencia, csj, served as facilitator of the methodology. Sister Daniela Cannavina hcmr. Secretary General of the Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of Religious (CLAR) accompanied the spiritual dimension.       

Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez, who gave testimony of the life of St. Oscar Romero and his legacy for our Latin American and universal Church.

Tensions that are present

Some tensions present in the groups and reflected in the working document for the continental stage: distinguishing between clericalism and anticlericalism, the participation of women, the hierarchical structure, decision-making spaces, the request for a more incisive and welcoming dialogue for people living in situations such as: remarried divorcees, polygamous marriages, the LGBTQ movement and on the other hand the apparent clash between two tendencies: traditionalism and progressivism.

Also among the groups there was an echo of the need to avoid falling into the temptation of understanding the ministry within the Church as quotas of power to which one has the right and for which one must fight to attain; to avoid falling into the temptation of the ideologies and fashions of the present time, the restlessness provoked by the influence of some sector to speak of an apparent "democratization" of the Church and its structures. The need was expressed to remain faithful to the Gospel, tradition and the magisterium of the Church, to evangelize the world without losing sight of our Christian essence, to distinguish the signs of the times for this moment in history, the need for a renewal that passes above all through an interior and pastoral conversion, as well as to assume the challenges of speaking and evangelizing today's society without losing sight of the essentials of our faith.

Listening to our pastors

Monsignor Gustavo Rodríguez Vega, Archbishop of Yucatán, presided the Holy Eucharist at the end of the second day of work, during the homily he said: "Synodality is not a fashion, synodality has led us to unite more as a Church ... we are doing something new, in Latin America and the Caribbean we have been pioneers in this synodal path, proof of this is the existence of the Secretariat of the Episcopate of Central America (SEDAC)".

On February 15 the Holy Eucharist at the end of the day was presided by Monsignor Sócrates René Sándigo Jirón, Bishop of the Diocese of León, Nicaragua, during the homily he said: "Let's keep in mind that we are in a process in which we first notice that we are walking, we realize how much the Church has advanced and that is a beautiful sign that we are walking. Then in this journey we must learn to read the signs of the times...".

On February 16 Monsignor Roberto Camilleri Azzopardi ofm. Bishop of the Diocese of Comayagua and president of the Episcopal Conference of Honduras invited us in the homily of the Eucharist of this day: "....We have asked the Holy Spirit to enlighten us, so that this light may give us the direction that shows us what is true, this light that leads us to the infinite light that is the Lord?

At the closing Eucharist of the assembly on February 17 Monsignor José Luis Escobar Alas, Archbishop of San Salvador emphasized during his homily: "...We still have a long way to go, the Church is that, the synodal way, certainly this is the way the Church walks but with an additional objective which is the mission, therefore synodality is mission at the same time and in this I want to bring to mind what we heard many times from so many brothers who constantly spoke to us of the need to put Christ at the center of identifying ourselves with Christ, to follow Christ and from Christ to live synodality seeing in Christ the distant brothers and sisters who are not physically with us but whom we invite with open arms because they are other Christs independently of the situation they are living, the Lord loves us all, we are all brothers.... Synodality is above all the following of Christ, who walks with us, but in Christ we are all united by the Spirit, in charity, in mercy, in forgiveness, in an attitude of good, not to judge but to understand to help, our mission is to bless not to curse, we have a program of life there.... The readings that we listen to are those of today, we have not chosen them and it is providential, there will always be the temptation to build towers of Babel out of pride, to go alone to turn our backs on Christ; however, we belong to Christ...".

The road continues

Mauricio Lopez Oropeza, coordinator of the working group for the continental phase of the synod points out that the journey continues: "At the conclusion of the 4 regional meetings of Latin America and the Caribbean, there will be a meeting of the companions of each region and the support theologian with the responsible commission of CELAM and together they will prepare the final document to be presented on March 31 and that will be disseminated to all". In the month of June we will have available the working document that will record the fruits of the seven continental assemblies and the work will continue in the first session of the Ordinary Assembly to be held in October of this year in Rome and will last until 2024.

At the end of the regional assembly, some participants shared that it was not clear where this process would lead. What will be the fruits? What will be its scope? What will be the first steps to be taken? But there remains the confidence that the Holy Spirit continues to lead the Church and will continue to drive the paths it must follow through history. The experience could be valued as positive and enriching since it has allowed a dialogue and listening despite the different opinions and even realities. A beautiful reality has been to see working together in small groups: laity, bishops, religious, priests, dialoguing in a spirit of communion with the same interest, trying to give an answer to the needs of the Church in our time. Undoubtedly a meeting that has favored spaces of spirituality, silence and listening to try to discern the signs of the times and respond to the here and now of the Church in this new millennium, the rest of the way that remains is to let ourselves be guided by the light of the Holy Spirit, being docile to his project.

The authorNéstor Esaú Velásquez

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