We thank Xavier for sharing with us his enriching experiences on a visit to Brazil.
The Second Global Forum of the People of God will be held in the Brazilian city of Aparecida, home to the shrine of Brazil’s patron saint, Our Lady of Aparecida . The Portuguese title for Our Lady is Nossa Senhora da Conceição Aparecida (Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Who Appeared). In October, 1717, three poor fishermen found a statue of Mary in their net when they were fishing in the Paraíba River. The statue was black and appeared at a time when the Portuguese system of enslaving Africans and bringing them to Brazil to labor on the plantations was fully developed.
“Many of the kinds of changes that the Catholic reform movement would like to see have already happened in the Brazilian church. Brazil has been enacting and doing these reforms for 40 years.” —Xavier
At a conference I attended in 2015, our opening song for the closing eucharistic liturgy was a song that is sung by the Base Christian Community movement in Brazil. I had learned this song when I first attended a national conference of these communities in Brazil in 2005. Brazil is the largest Catholic country in the world and the progressive Brazilian church has been at the forefront for change in the global church. The song gave us a taste of the exciting energy of the Brazilian church.
|Peneirei fubá, fubá caiu
Eu tornei peneirar, fubá subiu
Uai,uai,uai, a nossa vez chegou.
Uai,uai,uai, venha ver tamanho amor.
|I sifted cornmeal, the cornmeal fell down
I sifted cornmeal again, the cornmeal went up.
Uai,uai,uai, our time has come.
Uai,uai,uai,come see such great love.
For the Base Christian Communities, known as CEBs in Portuguese (Comunidades Eclesiais de Base), sifting cornmeal is a metaphor for sifting through present-day events in the light of the Gospel and looking for the movement of the Spirit. It is spiritual discernment on both a personal and communal level.
My experiences in Brazil and my connections in Mexico and Asia truly offer inspiration, and show the church in the North America, Australasia and Europe where support is vital to keep reform momentum strong.
The church in Latin America responded to the Second Vatican Council with tremendous creativity. Many people in the church– lay people, religious, priests and bishops– interpreted the Council’s call for reading the signs of the times with great vision. Looking at the reality of Latin American societies marked by great economic inequality, discrimination against indigenous peoples and people of African descent, and continued destruction of the environment, these visionary Catholics articulated a new way of being church that is expressed through small communities made up of people from the base of society. This was articulated in what became known as liberation theology, and connected through gatherings of representatives of these small communities in national, regional and continental meetings.
These small Christian communities are called “Comunidades Eclesiales de Base” in Spanish, and “Comunidades Eclesiais de Base” in Portuguese and are known as CEBs. I had begun to learn about the CEBs when I first lived in Mexico, but my first experience of them was when I participated in a national conference of CEBs in Brazil in July 2005. I was invited to a pre-conference gathering of international participants who spent a week in the town of Cariacica, a city of the metropolitan area of Vitória in the Brazilian state of Espirito Santo. We international guests were hosted by a parish called “Jesus the Liberator” which was made up of 21 base communities (CEBs ). The purpose of our stay in this parish was to see the reality of these communities and learn how the CEBs in Brazil were living out new models of the church.
I was astonished by the creativity of the Brazilian church, the enthusiasm of the CEBs members and the protagonism of lay people in both administrative and liturgical roles in the parish. At the time, I kept thinking that progressive Catholics from Europe, North America and Australasia needed to come to Brazil just to see how our vision and hope for a church where clergy and lay people work in equal partnership was being lived out. My hope is that bridges can be built with Brazilian Catholics so that progressive-minded Catholics in both countries can be in frequent contact and can support each other’s efforts to be a lay-centred, inclusive church.
Jesus the Liberator parish had no joint worship space. Instead, in one neighbourhood in Cariacica, the parish had administrative offices and a catechetical centre. The parish was made up of 21 individual communities of up to 100 members in each community that gathered in their own worship space in each neighbourhood. The parish only had one ministerial priest, but because there were so many communities, each community only celebrated the Mass once every four to six weeks. On the Sundays when no ministerial priest came to a community, the lay people gathered in their worship space for a “Celebration” (Celebração in Portuguese) where a lay woman or lay man presided over the liturgy, preached the homily and led a blessing of bread (not called Eucharist) which was distributed during the Sign of Peace. Because of the lack of ministerial priests, lay men and women were trained and commissioned by the local archdiocese to serve in their communities as Ministers of Baptism, Marriage (with the title “Officially Recognized Wedding Witnesses”) and Ministers to the Dying, who accompanied families with a member who was dying, before, during and after the death. These lay leaders had been through prolonged training which included biblical exegesis based on the historical-critical method and theological reflection. What also amazed me was that the members of these CEBs lived in one of the poorest cities in metropolitan Vitória and almost none of them had more than a high school education. The people were from the “base” of Brazilian society.
It was at this week long gathering in Cariacia that I first learned to sing and dance “Peneirei Fubá?” (Sifting Cornmeal).
The Brazilian church has given great attention to Pope Francis’ encyclical about the ecological crisis (a). The name of this encyclical “Laudato Si’” come from the first line of St. Francis of Assisi’s hymn to creation and means “Praised Be“ in English. Some elements of the Brazilian church have been very active in the environmental movement and there is a growing awareness of the beauty and fragility of Brazil’s many ecosystems. The basilica dedicated to Brazil’s patron saint, Our Lady of Aparecida, is full of beautiful artwork that depicts these ecosystems.
At the Mass at the Vitória Cathedral, we were given a worship aid that surprised me because of the moving words to the official prayer and the hymn for this year’s Fraternity Campaign sponsored by the Brazilian Bishops’ Conference. The whole Brazilian church is being asked this year to reflect upon Laudato Si’.
Prayer for the 2017 Fraternity Campaign
Theme: “Cultivate and Take Care of Creation” (Gn. 2:15)
Motto: “Fraternity: Brazilian Biomasses and the Defence of Life”
God, our Father and Lord, we praise you and bless you for your infinite goodness.
You created the universe with wisdom
and you handed it over to our fragile hands so that we would care for it with tenderness and love.
Help us to be responsible and zealous for our Common Home.
Increase, in our immense Brazil, the desire and the willingness to care more and more for people’s lives
and for the beauty and richness of creation,
nourishing the dream of the new heaven and the new earth that you promised.
Hymn of the Fraternity Campaign 2017
Refrain: From the Amazon to the Pampas, from the Cerrado to the Manguezais, may our song of life and peace come to You
- May you be praised, o Lord, for mother earth, who welcomes us, make us joyful and gives us bread ( cf. Laudato Si’, n.1).
We want to be your partners in the task of “ cultivating and taking good care of creation”.
- Seeing the richness of the biomass that you created, with happiness you said: everything is beautiful; everything is good!
In order to take care of your work you called us to preserve and cultivate such a great gift (cf.Gn. 1-2 ).
- Along the entire coast of our country you spread life; there are many faces– from the Caatinga to the Pantanal: Black people and Indians, rural people: beautiful people, fighting together for a more equal world.
- Lord, now you lead us to the desert and then you speak tenderly to our hearts
(cf. Hosea 2:16) to show us that we are such diverse peoples but the same God makes our hearts beat.
- If we contemplate this “mother” with reverence, not with visions of profit or ambition, consumerism, wastefulness and indifference become struggle, commitment and protection ( cf. Laudato Si’, n. 207 ).
- May a new ecology grow among us (cf. Laudato Si’, chapter IV) where people, nature
and all of life at last can sing in the most perfect symphony to the Creator that made the earth his garden.
a. Laudato Si’ – Pope Francis’ encyclical about the ecological crisis and the responsibility of all people to respond to it. Written in 2015.
Pampas– flat plains in the southernmost part of Brazil which borders Argentina and Paraguay
Cerrado– vast tropical savanna in central Brazil
Manguezais – ecosystem along the entire Brazilian coast situated between solid ground and the ocean
Caatinga – unique ecosystem found only in Brazil, arid semi-desert, in Brazil’s Northeast
Pantana – the world’s largest tropical wetland found mainly in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul
Black people- In Brazilian Portuguese, there are two words for the one English word “black” : preto ( the color black ) and negro ( used by Afro-Brazilians to describe themselves politically). In this song, the word “ negro” is used, and it does not have the offensive connotations in Portuguese that it has in English. Translating “ negro “ as “ Afro-Brazilian” is awkward, through “Afro-Brazilian” sounds better in English to many Americans.
Indians– unlike in Mexican Spanish, the Portuguese and Spanish word “índio” is not offensive in Brazilian Portuguese. The word “indígena” (indigenous) is also used in Brazil, but in this song the word “índio” is used. There is no direct Brazilian translation of the term “Native Americans”
Introducing the book [ French ]
In November 2015 in Rome, the Council 50 gathering, now designated as the 1st Global Forum of the People of God, was a highly significant event. Delegates from all continents participated. This gathering, organized in the same spirit as for Vatican II, is a part of a process that contributes to explicit the “sensum fidelium/sensusfidei”. It gives to communities, movements, groups, associations and parishes, which during the last 50 years worldwide made germinating seeds sowed by the Council Vatican II and developing new practices, the opportunity to give their point of view onto the reforms inspired by Gospels and the spirit of the Council Vatican II to be implemented in the Church. It is not a celebration of the past, but an impulse towards the future of our Church, people of God. Fifty years after the Vatican II Council closing, it opens new perspectives for the People of God in the 21st century, which implies unavoidable and deep changes for renewal in the Catholic Church.
We are very glad to publish on our website the book edited by François Becker on the Council 50 event. François was the leader of the event preparation work which started several years before. He also managed the huge work of collecting all elements and setting up the book that presents an overview of the preparation, the content and the follow-up of the first Global Forum of the People of God.
The main contents of the gatherings, which are included in the book, show how fruitful was their diversity. This concerns in particular the speeches of our speakers originated from all continents, as well as the exchanges in the workshops on many issues.
The “Council 50 Declaration” elaborated during the Gathering is also in the book and can still be endorsed on our website.
It is emphasized that this 1st Global Forum of the People of God is the first step of a multi-year process: The book announces the creation of the Global Council Network (GCN) and the forthcoming 2nd Global Forum of the People of God which will occur in Aparecida, near Sao Paulo in Brazil on November 15-18, 2018. Our GCN Brazilian team, supported by our coordination group is already working hard on the preparation (see details on the Information letter N°3 on this website).
From the contacts we have, it appears that interest for GCN actions is growing in various countries. The book on Council 50 should be very useful.
Our last letter of information (N° 2) was issued in November 2016, a few days after the meeting in Rome of our coordination team.
As agreed during that meeting, we intent to inform periodically on progress of actions being carried out in view of future gatherings designated as ‘Forum of the People of God”.
We remind that the first Forum occurred in Rome one year earlier (November 2015) under Council 50 designation.
The main topics developed in this letter are the following :
- Setting up the GCN coordination team
- Preparation of the 2nd Forum to be held in Aparecida (Brazil) in November 2018
- Relations with Church hierarchy
- Links with other gatherings already initiated in the same spirit
- Budget and Fundraising
- Book on Council 50 (1st Forum of the People of God, Rome November 2015)
The 3rd Forum is still planned for the Year 2021. Our African friends are already thinking over it.
GCN Coordinating team
In our letter N° 2, we already informed that Jean-Pierre Schmitz has taken over the responsibility of leading coordination of action for GCN. A Google group “GCN Coordination Group” has been created to share information between members of the team.
That Google group comprises the participants to our meeting in Rome last November including the members of the Brazilian team in charge of the preparation of Aparecida Forum. That Brazilian team will hold leadership for organization of that 2nd Forum of the People of God. The GCN coordinating Group will provide full support and ensure contacts and as close as possible connections with other groups engaged in similar gatherings throughout the World.
2nd Global Forum of the People of God Aparecida Brazil November 2018
Our Brazilian GCN coordination team is working hard on the preparation activities. As decided in Rome last November. Next important step will be the joint meetings to be held in Brazil and in Paris on June 24th, 2017. In case it is too difficult to get all concerned people together in the same place, the Paris meeting will be held through a Skype conference.
Joint meetings of preparation in Paris and in Brazil
Jean-Pierre Schmitz will travel to Sao Paulo to meet the Brazilian team. Due to time difference, a first part of the meeting will take place in Paris on the morning of the 24th, the joint part of the meetings will take place through Skype communication in the morning in Brazil and in the afternoon in Paris, and a third part of the meeting will take place in the afternoon of the 24th in Brazil.
Suggested agendas :
. For the first part of the meeting in Paris (eventually with Skype connection)
- Preparation of the joint meeting (in particular general theme)
. For the joint part of the meeting (with Skype connection)
- General theme of the Forum
- Program and contents of the 2018 Forum, articulation with the Synod of the Youth, process to involve movements around the world, in particular in Latin America and get contributions from them: articulation with local or regional forums or synods
- Speakers and other organizations and individuals to be invited
- International contacts to be established
- Support to the Brazilian team and contacts with local Church
- Preliminary budget and Fund raising
. For the third part of the meeting in Brazil
discussions on general organization, logistics, contacts in Brazil and Latin America countries.
On the 25th visit to Aparecida to see the location of the meeting, look at accommodation and transport facilities, and visit the National Shrine.
The following general theme was proposed by the GCN coordination group : “sharing the decision-making on the Church”. In view of better understanding of the Portuguese translation, the Brazilians suggest something like “democratization of decision-making in the Church”. Reference could be made to the “inverted pyramid”.
In October 2015, Pope Francis made known his intent to radically changed Catholicism itself when he called for a "revolution" in the concept of the Catholic Church. He said the Holy See should not be a top-down organisation with the pope in charge but rather an inverted pyramid where the summit — the pope — is below and in service to the "holy faithful people of God" at the top, according to an Associated Press report.
This should be discussed at the June 24th meeting.
It is important, even more in the Year of Laity, to make sure that the general theme involves the the people, the world and the Church.
You are kindly invited to send me comments and suggestions regarding the issues that will be addressed, or have to be addressed during those meetings, especially on the general theme
From Sao Paulo, contacts have already been made in Brazil and other Latin America countries : Argentine, Uruguay, Nicaragua. In Brazil, the group Kairos We are also the Church is also aware of the proposal and will accompany the preparation. Other local and national representation groups are being contacted for a meeting in Sao Paulo.
Within the framework of the National Council of the Laity of Brazil-CNLB (Conselho Nacional do Laicato do Brasil), a meeting of the Southern Cone of the CELAM ( Consejo Episcopal Latinoamericano), whose theme will be "lay in public life" (22 to 26 May, in Buenos Aires). GCN will send a letter, to be read at the event, calling on participants to engage in the construction of the Forum of Aparecida. Also remember that November 2017 November 2018 in Brazil will be declared the year of the laity by CNBB (Conferência Nacional dos Bispos do Brasil)
CELAMare programming a Latin American meeting that will be held in Belo Horizonte between 2018 and 2019.
Regarding other continents (Europe, North America, Africa, Asia), the GCN coordinating team will establish contacts with potentially interested organizations and individuals, starting with the participants to the 1st Global Council Forum (Council 50) in Rome in 2015. We also will make contacts with other forums in a similar spirit which may occur throughout the world.
Relations with the Church hierarchy
GCN actions are initiated mostly from grassroots by lay people and movements in various countries and continents. However Bishops and other Church authorities are welcome if they are in agreement with our main objectives and want to support us.
In this regard, we already sent letters to some of them to make them aware of what we are trying to do and ask for support.
Let’s give two examples:
Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery for lay people, family and life (Vatican)
Cardinal John Njue, Archbishop of Nairobi Kenya
Other letters may be sent and new contacts arranged. Here again suggestions would be welcome.
Third Global Forum of the People of God
After Aparecida in 2018, the 3rd Forum should occur in Africa (precise location not decided yet)
in 2021. Already, several African friends Kenyan already declared their high interest.
Links with other gatherings
The following gatherings are scheduled :
- Medan Indonesia (April 1-6th 2017)
Main themes on the Forum: Youth Working for Ecological Sustainability, Genuine Human Development, and Peace
- AYA/ATF (Asian Youth Academy/Asian Theology Forum) to be held in Indonesia in July 2017
- Synod prepared by the American Catholic Council in 2018 end of October in USA
- New Zealand Forum in 2017
Information on other events would be welcome
The following communication means are implemented :
Information letters N° 1,2 and 3 allready published and available on the website
The Council 50 Global Council Network Website http://www.council50.org
Page facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GCN15/
The GCN Google group : see above
Dedicated website for Aparecida under construction in Brazil - http://globalforumaparecida.blogspot.fr/
Budget and Fundraising
At present stage, we cannot give a precise cost estimate for the Aparecida forum, including the preparation activities. Together with the Brazilian team, we are working on that issue which will be critical for the success of the event.
The main expenses are the following:
- Administrative and logistic costs
- Costs related to invited speakers and others
- Financial support to participants coming from remote places who could not afford travel and accommodation expenses
We should know more on this in June.
Fund raising actions have already been initiated, mainly in France. Up to now, the financial contributions represent only a small part of what will be needed.
Everyone should be aware of that situation and try to help our fundraising efforts.
bank transfers can be made to the GCN bank account (continuation of the Council 50 account):
Account’s Owner : Reseau Européen Eglise et Liberté (EN-RE) Concile 50
Bank : CCM Seine Ouest (France)
IBAN : FR76 1027 8060 7500 0210 5210 423
BIC : CMCIFR2A
A GCN account will be created in Brazil for local activities
Book Council 50
Edited by François Becker in two languages (French and English), a book entitled “1st Global Forum of the People of God, Rome 2015 Council 50” is under revision. It should be available in a few months via internet. This book contains all the presentations and documents elaborated during the Council 50 gathering that took place in Rome on November 20 to 22, 2015, particularly the Council 50 Declaration which is still to be endorsed on the Council 50 website. You will be informed when it is available.
Coordinator Jean-Pierre Schmitz has been busy in discussions with colleagues in Aparecida, Brazil. Preparations are steadily making progress. Jean-Pierre has given contact addresses for organisations who should receive priority invitations to attend.
Plans are being made for twin meetings in Europe and Aparecida in the summer with a Skype connection between them.
Associated organisations in France have begun fundraising for the Forum.