Thursday, August 23, 2012

Latin American Congress on the 50th Anniversary of Vatican II

Sr. Margot Bremer, a German nun with the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Biblical scholar who works with indigenous people in Paraguay, will be leading a workshop on "Theology and Guarani Wisdom" at the Congresso Continental de Teologia in Brazil in October.

by Sr. Margot Bremer, RSCJ (English translation by Rebel Girl)

Celebrating a Congress in Latin America 50 years after Vatican II means we don't want to forget it. This celebration means a lot to us in Latin America since that Council offered a radical change in the Church's view and its mission in the world. That new self-understanding gave new revitalizing and creative breath to the Latin American Church and inspired a re-reading from its own reality that was reflected in the documents of Medellin.

The Church, by presenting itself in the Conciliar documents in various concepts and symbols, had helped us to better understand the unfathomable mystery that doesn't fit in a single concept or a single image. During the dictatorships on this continent, the biblical image of the People of God that chapter II of Lumen Gentium presents, summoned many Catholics to meet in Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs), joined together as an organized People, following the model of the early church in the New Testament and seeking communion with the successors of the apostles, those who had received the ministry of the community (
LG III, 20). I was fortunate to accompany them, along with some seminarians, my students when I taught at the Quilmes Seminary in Argentina. The BECs themselves communally interpreted their reality as poor people in the light of the Word of God and sought solutions according to the Gospel. They renewed and strengthened their faith, incarnating it in the reality of their daily lives. Thus the first theological reflections began in their Bible meetings, expressed in their popular religiosity. Some committed theologians who accompanied this process, systematized those novel reflections, condensing into liberation theology what emerged from the clamor and distress of the People of God. The vast majority of the Latin American bishops in those days pledged their solidarity with them through the Preferential Option for the Poor.

Today we're at another stage. Vatican II helped us discover unity in diversity thanks to the warning to be attentive to the signs of the times (GSp).

Just as Vatican II found many concepts and Biblical symbols for the single reality of the Church, so liberation theology is discovering today that its reality includes many specific dimensions that are becoming visible today: feminist theology, indigenous theology, Afro-theology, theology of the Earth, eco-theology, political theology, etc.

For the last 20 years, I personally have been accompanying the native peoples in their theological reflexions from the perspective of their culture and religiosity, discovering in the intercultural dialogue some immense treasures of spirituality and wisdom, unknown in our racist society and our Church of Western culture. Those values, some of which have now been recognized at Aparecida, could be a worthy contribution to the building of a more Latin American Church. At these times of a changing era, the theological reflexions of the indigenous peoples could contribute to a return to more authentically Latin American roots, enriching Western theology with their valuable symbolic-spiritual contribution.

Because of the radical change in the world and the Church that has taken place in the last 50 years, I greatly expect that at this Congress there will be a new reading taken to restore the spirit of Vatican II in which its documents were written and take our inspiration from them for our journey as a poor, pilgrim and missionary Church towards a new era with new vistas and challenges.


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