Peace and Blessings in the Lord!
As we gather in Washington, DC, we express the collegial spirit that unites us as Pastors and that inspires our common witness. By strengthening the bonds of solidarity between our respective Churches, we give voice to that deeper unity that, according to Pope John Paul II, all the people of our continent seek with their hearts (Ecclesia in America, 5). We are one Church in America and we share the same vision of evangelization.
Each of our countries has its own joys and hopes, grief and anguish, that the Church shares as its own (Gaudium et spes, 1). As leaders of social justice ministries of our respective bishops’ conferences, we have frequently engaged our public officials and other civic authorities in bringing the message of the Gospel to decisions that affect the social, cultural and economic conditions of all our people, especially the poor, in search of measures that support human dignity and an authentic human development.
Our joint witness reveals a sincere hope that the liberating message of Jesus Christ might inform the efforts of those responsible for establishing a free trade area between our countries (United States-Andean Free Trade Agreement) with economic goals that truly serve all people.
In an increasingly interdependent world, of which this trade agreement is an example, all our people should have reason to hope that greater cooperation between us will offer real solutions to the perennial and stubborn problems of poverty, hunger and lack of opportunity. We recall especially the experiences of those who struggle daily to survive and who have little access to the means necessary to support themselves and their families. We are concerned that developments in international trade will not unleash the true potential for economic growth, poverty alleviation and integral human development that all people of good will hope for. To this end, we encourage measures that prioritize the life and dignity of all God’s children, especially the poor. As Pope John Paul II has said, “If there is no hope for the poor, there will be no hope for anyone, not even for the so-called rich” (Pastores Gregis, 67).
Similar concerns were expressed in a joint declaration of Bishops from the United States and five Central American countries regarding a similar free trade agreement between those countries (Joint Statement on the United States-Central American Free Trade Agreement, July 2004). As pastors, the bishops underlined important issues such as safeguarding the dignity of rural life, intellectual property rights, worker rights, the environment, the importance of citizen participation, especially for the poorest, as well as the importance of articulating a broader development agenda.
By our collegial solidarity, we symbolize in a more perfect way the preferential love for the poor and the most abandoned which Pope John Paul II has identified as the hallmark of the authentic believer (Message for World Day Peace 2005, 8). We pray that Mary, Mother of the Church and Patroness of America will strengthen our faith and inspire us with God’s promise to “raise up the lowly and fill the hungry with good things” (Lk. 1:52-53).
May this Lenten season that we enter today give us all repentant hearts that seek the Lord and His Kingdom of peace and justice.
Ash Wednesday, February 10, 2005
Representatives of the social justice ministries of the following national Bishops’ Conferences:
Archbishop Pedro Barreto, S.J.
Archbishop of Huancayo, Peru.
Bishop Wilson Moncayo Jalil
Bishop of Santo Domingo de los Colorados, Ecuador.
Bishop Luis Morgan Casey
Apostolic Vicar of Pando, Bolivia.
Bishop Lino Panizza, OFM Cap.
Bishop of Carabayllo, Peru.
Bishop Jaime Prieto Amaya
Bishop of Barrancabermeja, Colombia.
Bishop John H. Ricard, SSJ
Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee, USA.
Archbishop José Mario Ruiz Navas
Archbishop of Portoviejo, Ecuador