The Year of Faith, declared by Pope Benedict is a "summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the One Savior of the world" (Porta fidei 6). Throughout the Year of Faith, Catholics are being urged to study and reflect on the documents of Vatican II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church so that they may deepen their knowledge of the faith.
One of the great documents of Vatican II was the 1965 Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. "The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts."(GS 1)
As the Constitution unfolds, the Council Fathers go on to point out that: "Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, or wilful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where people are treated as mere instruments of gain rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others like them are infamies indeed. They poison human society, and they do more harm to those who practise them than to those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are a supreme dishonour to the Creator" (GS27)
Following the Council, and responding to Pope Paul VI's encyclical letter Populorum Progressio, the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace was established in 1967 by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. Development is the new word for Peace. It must be built daily, and it must strive towards a more perfect justice among human beings.
Extreme poverty is an enemy of authentic human development. Pope Benedict has pointed out: "The risk for our time is that the de facto interdependence of people and nations is not matched by ethical interaction of consciences and minds that would give rise to truly human development." (Caritas in Veritate 9)
It was regrettable, but not particularly surprising, that last month Don Cherry, of CBC Coach's Corner would twitter: "Maybe its just me. But Canada gave Haiti 49.5 million dollars last year. Are we nuts?'" Even International Cooperation Minister Julian Fantino mused about freezing aid to Haiti. But subsequently, he had to clarify his remarks: "While the results of specific projects have largely met expectations, progress towards a self-sustaining Haitian society has been limited.... However, we remain concerned with the slow progress of development in Haiti, in large part due to weakness in their governing institutions."
Despite the prophets of gloom and doom, things have changed in Haiti, especially in Port-au-Prince, even if it is as simple as the absence in the streets of the tons of rubble and debris left behind by the earthquake. Nevertheless, many people are still living in tents in appalling poverty and very precarious conditions.
Furthermore, many international organizations that went to Haiti with large sums have already left. They were mainly present during the emergency phase, but some have been absent during the reconstruction phase.
Nevertheless, it is enlightening to juxtapose certain texts from Pope Benedict's Caritas in Veritate with the interview answers assessing the situation given by Jean-Claude Jean, manager of the Development and Peace office in Haiti. (The interview is posted on the CCODP web site).
Pope Benedict - "Feeding the hungry is an ethical imperative ... and a requirement for safeguarding the peace and stability of the planet." (CV27) And that doesn't just mean food aid-but also a long-term perspective for dealing with food security, "respectful of the environment and attentive to the needs of the most deprived peoples."(CV26).
Jean Claude Jean - Haiti is a poor country and we think it is important to support the most vulnerable with initiatives aimed at promoting food sovereignty. For example, we are working in partnership with the Papaye Peasants' Movement, one of our partners for more than 25 years, on farming techniques, diversifying crops for consumption and sale, and the distribution of ingredients, such as fertilizers, to improve the productivity of the soil.
Pope Benedict - "I would like to remind everyone, especially governments...., that the primary captial to be safeguarded and valued is man, the human person in his or her integrity. The human person is the source, the focus and the aim of alle economic and social life." (25)
Jean Claude Jean - We are emphasizing justice and human rights during this reconstruction phase, because to strengthen these would constitute a fundamental change for Haitian democracy..... The reconstruction projects were designed based on the model of housing cooperatives found in Montreal, which enables families to manage their own environment. The idea is to build permanent homes in the Gressier area (a commune neighboring L'ogane that was at the earthquake's epicentre) and especially in places where families lived before the earthquake, so as not to uproot them in artificial villages ....The projects have been planned by local organizations directly representing the people. Moreover, the people involved do not want to be called "beneficiaries" of this project, but rather "partners!".... We apply Canadian building codes and, in particular, earthquake-resistant regulations because there are no public standards imposed by the Haitian government.
People tend to say that there is no hope in Haiti, that everyone is discouraged, but when you consider the will of the Haitian people and some of the reconstruction results and long term perspective of CCODP, there is ample reason for hope.
☩ Frederick Henry
Blessed John XXIII sensed that new ways were needed to communicate Christian doctrine to reveal the inherent attractiveness of the Gospel, while protecting its integrity. In his opening address at Vatican II to the bishops on October 11, 1962, Blessed John XXIII explained his vision. He proposed five points for a pastoral renewal of the Church:
- Be filled with hope and faith, Do not be prophets of gloom.
- Discover ways of teaching the faith more effectively.
- Deepen the understanding of doctrine.
- Use the medicine of mercy.
- Seek unity within the Church, with Christians separated from Catholicism, with those of non-Christian religions, and with all men and women of goodwill.
With the Decree of Ecumenism, the Second Vatican Council formally brought the Catholic Church into the ecumenical movement, and since that time we have been 'walking together and talking' - "about all of these things that have happened (especially since the sixteenth century)" - much like the disciples on the road to Emmaus.
At this juncture in our journey, it is important that we ask some fundamental questions:
Where are we? What has been achieved and what still has to be done? What is the Holy Spirit saying to the churches today?
In the past fifty years there have been many positive results which testify to our common search to fulfil the will of our one Lord Jesus Christ "that all may be one." Cardinal Kasper, the former President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, points to two of them.
First of all, in contrast with former polemics and apologetics, contemporary ecumenical dialogue starts with what we have in common, rather than what divides us. A more relaxed ecumenical atmosphere has been created in which an exchange of gifts has been enriching for all.
In common we share the Gospel as the Word of God and the Good News for all humanity, and we share the Creeds of the first centuries which summarize the Gospel message and give an authentic interpretation of it. We confess together the Triune God, and that Jesus Christ our common Lord and Saviour is truly human and truly divine, the one and universal mediator between God and man.
Together we confess that there is one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, to which in different ways we belong, so that even in our differences, we are brothers and sisters in the one Lord and in the one Spirit of Christ. Thus our dialogues can confirm and deepen our common foundation in the one apostolic faith and in our real but still incomplete communion.
Secondly, we have come to a fresh and renewed understanding of the relation between Scripture and 'Tradition. "Were not our hearts burning within us, while he was talking to us along the road, while he was opening the Scriptures to us?"
Since the sixteenth century Christians have been divided not only on specific questions of faith, but have been also burdened by a conflict of approaches regarding how and with which criteria to resolve those questions.
Can answers be found to our problems by appealing to Scripture alone (sola scriptura) or must argument derive from Scripture and Tradition?
Today, it is no longer possible to set Scripture and Tradition at odds with each other, and such a sharp contrast is no longer tenable. Scripture itself is a product of the earliest Tradition and the later Tradition (in its theological sense) is to be understood as the living presence of the same Gospel throughout the ages right up to the present.
In the Church, Tradition makes present and interprets the message of the Bible in every age. It is wrong to make an abstraction from this interpretation; we cannot simply have immediate access to Scripture by jumping over two millennia and ignoring the intervening history of interpretation.
During this long history, the Christian community read and interpreted the Scriptures guided by the Holy Spirit.
So it is that Catholics and other Christians are heirs to that rich history of two thousand years: the patristic and medieval tradition, the Reformation, the Catholic renewal in the sixteenth century, the post-Reformation developments, and the missionary and ecumenical movements.
Still, we have learned to distinguish between the Tradition and the many traditions (mostly good and helpful, but sometimes also distorted and antithetical to the Gospel). Faced with such a complex history, we agree upon the primacy of Scripture within this historical interpretative process. For all of us, Scripture is the witness to the original and primeval normative apostolic Tradition, given once and for all times. Catholics and other Christians venerate the Scriptures as the inspired Word of God. To them we must listen with an open-minded, conversion-oriented, prayerful attitude, to understand what the Spirit is communicating through its words, stories, images, admonitions and wisdom - and through their interpretation in the course of history.
The reception of such insights in both Catholic and other Christian communities has been a source of spiritual renewal and indeed has led to a high degree of shared biblical spirituality, and new awareness of our common mission to evangelization.
Come Holy Spirit!
Giver of life - Sustain your creation!
Spirit of truth - Set us free!
Spirit of unity - Reconcile your people!
Holy Spirit transform and sanctify us!
☩ Frederick Henry