One Church Many Cultures The Good News of Cultural Diversity Fall/Winter 2021
Executive Director's Message
Reconciliation and Healing in Multicultural Settings
By: Mar Muñoz-Visoso, MTS, Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church
Dear friends in Christ,
You will notice that several articles in this issue have an underlying theme of healing and reconciliation. Each author approaches it from a different perspective, gathering the voices of different communities. Some approach the topic from a victim’s perspective, and some from that of one who has barely come to realize their own role in perpetuating racism, discrimination and prejudice.
In an environment where hateful speech and hateful acts, lack of respect for human dignity, division and polarization run rampant, we felt the need to remind ourselves that ours is a ministry of reconciliation. As the Church worldwide initiates a process of reflection on “synodality as the path for the Church”, a journey we must undertake together, I would like to highlight three aspects of reconciliation and healing that are key for ministry in intercultural settings.
First, reconciliation as a sustaining spiritual pillar for ministry in culturally diverse contexts. “We all have been victims and wrongdoers at some point in our lives. Intercultural contexts can sometimes give rise to situations in which people feel they have been wronged, treated unfairly, or dehumanized. That is why reconciliation is an integral part of our identity and well-being—of our very lives as Christians.” (Building Intercultural Competence for Ministers)
More so, in modeling that identity, we must also remember that reconciliation is “first and foremost the work of God, who initiates and completes in us reconciliation through Christ”, but also that God always starts with the victim. In The Ministry of Reconciliation: Spirituality and Strategies, Fr. Robert J. Schreiter offers the following observation on the nature of reconciliation from a Christian perspective: “Ultimately, reconciliation is not a human achievement, but the work of God. Furthermore, God initiates the work of reconciliation in the lives of the victims. Ordinarily, we would expect reconciliation to begin with the repentance of the wrongdoers. But experience shows that wrongdoers are rarely willing to acknowledge what they have done or come forward of their own accord. If reconciliation depended entirely upon the wrongdoers' initiative, there would be next to no reconciliation at all. God begins with the victim, restoring to the victim the humanity which the wrongdoer has tried to wrest away or to destroy. This restoration of humanity might be considered the very heart of reconciliation […] It is through the victim that the wrongdoer is called to repentance and forgiveness. Seen from this perspective, repentance and forgiveness are not the preconditions for reconciliation, but are rather the consequences of it.”
Second, the work of reconciliation in multicultural and multigenerational communities means that, as ministers, we must attend to bridging the gap between the hesitant host (long-established community) and the reluctant guest (newcomers). “Along with hospitality, reconciliation is the other hinge that supports the process of ecclesial integration/inclusion…Listening deeply to the concerns and fears of both the longtime parishioner and the newcomers and accompanying them as they grieve the loss of what was familiar to them, is at the heart of a ministry of reconciliation in shared parishes.” (Best Practices for Shared Parishes; Part II).
My third and final point is that racism, and any form of discrimination based on race, ethnicity or cultural heritage, is incompatible with our identity as Christians, a sin that is against both the unity of the Body of Christ and the good of society. As the Catholic bishops of the United States remind us in Open Wide Our Hearts, their 2018 Pastoral Letter Against Racism, “… there is no place for racism in the hearts of any person; it is a perversion of the Lord’s will for men and women, all of whom were made in God’s image and likeness.” (Page 26). More so, as Christians “love compels each of us to resist racism courageously. It requires us to reach out generously to the victims of this evil, to assist the conversion needed in those who still harbor racism, and to begin to change policies and structures that allow racism to persist.” (P. 15). “To press forward without fear means ‘to walk humbly with God’ in rebuilding our relationships, healing our communities, and working to shape our policies and institutions toward the good of all” (P. 16).
As Catholics, we must strive to work for healing and reconciliation within our families, communities of faith, and society at large. “To work at ending racism, we need to engage the world and encounter others—to see, maybe for the first time, those who are on the peripheries of our own limited view. Knowing that the Lord has taken the divine initiative by loving us first, we can boldly go forward, reaching out to others…Only by forging authentic relationships can we truly see each other as Christ sees us. Love should then move us to take what we learn from our encounters and examine where society continues to fail our brothers and sisters, or where it perpetuates inequity, and seek to address those problems. (P. 19).
Knowing ourselves loved and forgiven by God, let us become the face of God’s mercy for others. Ours is a ministry of reconciliation.