Brazilian bishops protest changes to CELAM text on base communities

Brazilian bishops protest changes to CELAM text on base communities August 29, 2007

From John Allen’s daily column at NCR:

Some Brazilian bishops are charging that behind-closed-doors revisions to the final document from last May’s General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean (CELAM) have softened its support for base communities, a pastoral approach associated with liberation theology, according to reports in the Brazilian media.

The Brazilian newspaper Estado broke the story last week, reporting variations between the text approved by the Latin American bishops at the close of their May 13-31 assembly in Aparecida, Brazil, and the version sent to Pope Benedict XVI for his approval in mid-June. Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz of Chile, the president of CELAM, later acknowledged that changes were made by himself and the body’s secretary general, Argentinean bishop Andrés Stanovnik.

At least in Brazil, some bishops are crying foul.

“We consider the alteration of the text to be disrespectful to the participants of the Aparecida conference,” said Bishop Pedro Luiz Stringhini, president of the Brazilian conference’s Pastoral Commission for the Service of Charity, Justice, and Peace. According to the Estado report, several bishops said they intended to raise the issue at an upcoming meeting of the executive body of the Brazilian bishops’ conference.

Other observers argue, however, that the changes are largely cosmetic, and that the overall positive treatment of base communities remains intact.

This does not come as a surprise to me, considering the history of power games that have, sadly, been a part of CELAM’s history. Read the rest here. For a good overview of the relationship between the Latin American bishops’ conference and the Vatican, I recommend the late Penny Lernoux’s now out-of-print book People of God: The Struggle for World Catholicism.

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