Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Message of the 34th Congreso de Teología on church reform based on the option for the poor

Read the original message in Spanish here. English translation by Rebel Girl.

From September 4 to 7, 2014, we celebrated the 34th Congress of Theology on "REFORMING THE CHURCH BASED ON THE OPTION FOR THE POOR" in Madrid, which brought together people from different countries and continents, cultures and religions, in a climate of reflection, brotherly-sisterly coexistence, dialogue and exchange of experiences.

1. We begin our reflexion with the question "Did Jesus found the Church?". The answer is that he set up a community of equals, a movement of men and women who accompanied him and committed themselves to building the Kingdom of God as Good News for the impoverished. This movement continued in the Christian communities with shared responsibilities and especially women's protagonism. In them, decisions were made through deliberation of all their members and the communality of goods was held as an ideal. Over time this ideal was blurred until it resulted in a clerical, hierarchical and patriarchal Church allied with power, although there were always groups that worked for reform and the return to the gospel ideal of life.

2. Today we deem that a radical reform of the Church according to Jesus' movement and in response to the challenges of our time is necessary. This reform requires the practice of democracy and the recognition and exercise of human rights, including sexual and reproductive rights, as well as synodal government, which was in effect during the first ten centuries of Christianity, with the participation of the laity who are the foundation of the Church, to thus overcome "Vatican inconsistency", which is advocating for human rights and democracy in society and not applying them within.

3. We believe that church reform must translate into:
  • respect for secularism, criticism of power, and commitment to the most vulnerable sectors;
  • denunciation of neoliberalism, which Pope Francis has characterized as "unjust at its root" since it fosters an "economy of exclusion", "globalization of indifference", "a new idolatry of money", an environment that is "defenseless before the interests of a deified market", and an inability to "feeling compassion at the outcry of others";
  • and support for political and economic alternatives proposed by the Social Forums.

4. Church reform requires respect for cultural and religious diversity. The opposite would be imperialism. Consistent with this attitude, the Theology Congress has listened to the voices, testimonies and summons of the churches of the South, especially of Africa and Latin America, which reflect their cultural richness, their liberating potential and their proposals for reform. Listening that involves changing the way of thinking, living, producing, and how the North relates to the South -- a relationship that is not oppressive but cooperative, not arrogant but helpful, not colonizing but decolonizing.

5. Reform must be made from below, from the social and ecclesial grassroots, and it requires a new location -- situating oneself in the place and by the side of those excluded by the system who are scandalously the majority of the world's population and growing because of the crisis. It also requires a horizon to guide it -- the Church of the poor, and a gospel ethical principle to follow -- the option for the poor.

6. Church reform should be inclusive. It must overcome discrimination and exclusion that is still in effect and active for reasons of gender, religion, culture, ethnicity, social class, sexual orientation and option, political choice, geographic origins, and marital relationship, and create a welcoming, solidary and Samaritan community where all of us fit.

7. This reform is already becoming a reality in different religious, church and social environments as the enriching experiences told by the protagonists themselves have shown -- in the rural world, sharing the peasantry's struggles for dignity, the equitable distribution of land, and eco-human relationships, in immigration, fighting for the liberation of indigenous women, in the jails, helping prisoners regain freedom and joy of living, in the base communities, living the Christian faith from the perspective of laicism, in the solidarity struggle against evictions, in the episcopal and priestly ministry building the Church of the poor under the guidance of liberation theology, among young people outraged by an authoritarian model of Church and society that marginalizes them.

8. If church reform is not carried out, she herself will be committing hara-kiri and can not blame others for her crisis and gradual loss of credibility. If it is done with her back turned to the marginalized, she will be being unfaithful to her origins and the poor. If she is not equal, inclusive, intercultural and interfaith, she will distance herself from Jesus' movement and the egalitarian principle clearly formulated by Paul of Tarsus: "There is no longer Jew or Greek, slave nor free, male nor female." (Galatians 3:26)

9. Friends, we are called to the task of the transformation of the Church, not in isolation but in harmony with the social, ecological, religious and liberation spirituality movements. For this we need, as the song says, all hands, black and white, to be extended as far as possible, from the beach to the mountains, from the mountain to the beaches, with an eye on the horizon, on the road to utopia.

10. We cannot end this message without denouncing Islamic state terrorism, Israel's massacre in Gaza, as well as the violence against Christians and other religious groups. We stand in solidarity with the victims and demand liability, reparation, rehabilitation and justice.

Madrid, September 7, 2014

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