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Brazilian Dialogue

Bishops reflections shared with readers

In every epoch some bishop leaves his mark on the church for centuries to come. Martin of Tours, in the third century, or Augustine of Hippo a bit later, come immediately to mind.

Such a bishop of the 20th century is Pedro Casaldaliga of Sao Felix in Brazil. He is now 75 and retiring from Sao Felix, though, like Helder Camara 15 years ago, he'll continue as "bishop to the world."

The Ursuline Sisters of Maceio sent me his farewell letter to Sao Felix Diocese. Below are excerpts.

"A bare two years into a new millennium and our world continues both cruel and compassionate, unjust and yet hopeful. We still have a war and empire-building and the empire has just invented its newest weapon: pre-emptive war. And the world continues to be divided into three parts: a First World, a Third World, and a fourth. Hunger, poverty, corruption and violence have increased but at the same time so has the awakening of consciences, of protest, of organized search for alternatives.

"The mystical stamp which Karl Rahner prophesied for the new century is assuredly appearing though as yet with many faces, with a great deal of confusion but also with continuing dialogue.

"Religion displays more and more pluralism. Faith is refracted in a thousand names and a thousand searches. This faith, lived in true brotherhood and sisterhood, will be a great support for the human family's hope. "God is in sight. And where we see God is in this new humanity.

"This growing, not-to-be-denied eagerness for change, is expressing itself in forums and platforms of all sorts and it says, 'another sort of world is possible, is necessary, is urgent. A world without empires, without genocides, without unbridled profits and without excluded ones, the many desperate poor.'

"We want change in the church too, a church without classes, without centralization, without denominational quarrels.

"The world has recently expressed itself vigorously for change in the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, and in regional forums. Here in Latin America, in Brazil, this yearning for a new order has been dramatically proclaimed in the election of Lula. Though president of only Brazil, Lula spells hope for the whole of Latin America.

"In the church too, pressure is rising for change, for a church more solidly on the side of the poor, therefore of the kingdom; a church more inculturated, more like the Good Samaritan, more synodal, more co-responsible. It isn't inopportune to dream of a Vatican III, or of a Mexico I or of a Council of Bombay with a strong Asiatic stamp.

" 'The darkest hour,' says a Sephardic proverb, 'is just before dawn.'

"I have just completed 75 years and I feel like one standing at a bus stop, not knowing exactly the hour of departure, nor the immediate destination, but knowing nonetheless that I will continue with you on our humble human pilgrimage to our paternal-maternal home.

"Let us like the Man of La Mancha continue to dream the impossible dream."

Al Gerwing