We then offer the text of the communication of the bishops that was read at the Masses of April 20, 1969.
TO OUR SACERDOTES AND FAITHFUL
Dear Brothers and Children:
In the course of the previous Conference – held in early March – we began reflection on the documents emanating from the Second General Conference of the Latin American Episcopate, in order to translate into practical standards the general principles of renewal contained there.
As we resumed this reflection now, we chose as its central theme the beautiful inaugural address with which the Holy Father, visiting Bogota on the occasion of the thirty-ninth International Eucharistic Congress, wanted to open the debates that took place later – for an eleven-day space – in the Colombian city of Medellin. A discourse, by the way, full of wise parental recommendations ranging from what is most intimately ours, i.e. the guidelines relating to our sanctification, the witness of life, the value and risks of faith, prayer and the ministry of the word – specifically stopping in the apostolic orientations – to the practical orientations around the fact of coexistence in a continent shaken by the arduous problems of development and the consequences from this are derived for our conscious insertion into the new stage that advances in the midst of us.
“It opens today, with this visit,” the Pope solemnly exclaimed, “a new period of ecclesiastical life.” He added later: “The future calls for an effort, a boldness, a sacrifice that puts the Church in deep longing. We are in a moment of total reflection. We are overwhelmed by the particular restlessness of our time, especially in these countries projected towards their full development and overwhelmed by awareness of their economic, social, political and moral imbalances, including the Pastors of the Church – right?– endorse the longing of peoples at this stage of the history of civilization” (Doc. Med. II, pp. 15-16).
Echoing these luminous words of the Holy Father, the Conference of Medellin pointed in its message to all the peoples of Latin America: “As Pastors with a common responsibility, we want to commit ourselves to the lives of all our peoples in the harrowing search for adequate solutions to their many problems.” And concluded: “That is why we are sym supportive of the responsibilities that have arisen at this stage of transformation in Latin America” (D.M. II, pp. 32-33); not without warning afterwards: “Our pastoral mission is essentially a service of inspiration and education of the consciences of believers to help them perceive the responsibilities of their faith, in their personal lives and in their social life” (D.M., II No. 6, p. 54).
Where does the originality of this “new period of ecclesiastical life” highlighted by the Pope lie and what are the responsibilities to which Medellin’s declaration compromises us? We understand that, along with other equally important aspects, this originality lies in a renewed vision of our social morals in accordance with the responsibilities posed to us by the problem of development. On this subject we discussed our reflections throughout the meeting, the results of which we proceed to set out.
First of all, it is our duty to emphasize that: “The originality of the Christian message – as the Conference of Medellin says – is not directly the affirmation of the need for a change of structure, but the insistence on the conversion of man , which then requires such a change” (D.M. II, p. 52).
Conversion therefore brings with it a change of conduct in search of greater fidelity to God’s will, fidelity that takes into account on the one hand the revealed morality, and on the other the adaptation of that morality according to the “signs of the times”, according to a current vision of the virtue of prudence. However, there are two very clear “signs of the times” in our day: first, the development of peoples; second, a complicated network of human relations, both in the national and international order. It follows from all this that simply individual morality, nor a social morality that puts its emphasis, almost exclusively on the use of external things, is not enough; it requires a social morality, which without ignoring objective reality, nevertheless has, as a starting point the human person, in his vocation to integral development.
Today this morality presents to every man the duty to fulfill his vocation to development. And in the practical order of the realizations such a duty undoubtedly creates universal human solidarity. Love must be for the Christian the soul of this generous attitude.
In other words: the attitude of the Christian implies a renewal of his social morals, especially when he is immersed in a reality like ours in which the problem of development is faced as a fundamental motive.
The master lines of this renewed “social morality” are contained in two documents of the Universal Magisterium of the Church that should be included in the full formation of all Christians: the pastoral constitution Joy and hope of the Second Vatican Council; and the celebrated encyclical on The Progress of the Peoples of His Holiness Paul VI.
“In the designs of God,” the Pope proclaims in populorum progressio, “every man is called to promote his own progress, because the life of every man is a vocation given by God for a concrete mission” (N. 15). This development, which “does not come down to simple economic growth”, “is not optional”, “but constitutes as a summary of our duties” (N. 16); so that, in short – thanks to a free option due to all respect – “by its insertion into the living Christ, man has the open path to new progress. which gives it its greatest fullness; such is the supreme purpose of personal development” (N. 16).
Moreover,” the Pope continues, “It is not only this or that man, but all men are called to this full development” so that “universal solidarity which is a fact and a benefit to all is also a duty” (N. 17). Development that “being in the name of peace” (N. 87), will finally consist of the “step, for each and for all from less human living conditions to more human conditions” (N. 20).
For its part, the pastoral constitution Joy and Hope draws our attention to the fact that “development” must always be “at the service of man” and must always remain “under human control”, since every concrete man and all men must always be the irreplaceable and inviolable subjects of integral and solidarity development (G. S. Nos. 64-65).
Of course, this is not an easy company. On the contrary, it is an immense task. The Second Vatican Council itself tells us: “Peoples who are in the process of development, understand well that they must expressly and finely seek, as an end to their own progress, the human perfection of their citizens”. And he goes on to state: “Keep in mind that progress arises and increases mainly, through the work and preparation of the peoples themselves, progress that must be driven not only by external aid, but above all by the development of one’s own strengths and the cultivation of one’s own gifts and traditions” (G.S., No. 85).
The importance of work in the perspective of renewed developmental morality must necessarily lead us to renew our spirituality in relation to it. Even if we deplore the excesses that may accompany that reality necessary to achieve development, and use all legitimate means to overcome them, the work of the Christian will always have a spiritual motivation that is his own and that no one will be able to take away from him. No synthesis better, nor more authoritative in this regard, than that offered by the same encyclical on the progress of peoples: “Work has been loved and blessed by God. Created in his image man must cooperate with the creator in the perfection of creation, and mark, in turn, the earth with the spiritual character that he himself has received.” Because “every worker is a creator.” “Moreover, living together, participating in the same hope, suffering, ambition and joy, work unites wills, brings spirits closer together, and melts hearts; when they do it, men discover that they are brothers.” And yet his ambivalence and the risks of possible dehumanization “the work of men much more for the Christian still has the mission of collaborating in the creation of the supernatural world, not finished, until we all come together to constitute that perfect man who speaks of St Paul, who performs the fullness of Christ” (P. P. Nos. 27-28).
We are no stranger to the implications and sacrifices of this Christian attitude. But the Lord has told us, “You are the light of the world. A city on top of a mountain cannot be hidden. Neither does a lamp to put it under the celemín, but on the candlestick to light up everyone in the house. Thus shine your light before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mt 5:13-16).
Moreover, how many excesses are not due to the specific situation of isolation in which we have been living for several years! Who among us ignores the difficulties of all kinds that hinder the path that should lead to development?
Internal difficulties, caused by the novelty of the problem and its technical complexity but also the product of the deficiencies and sins of men; but, in no less proportion, external difficulties, linked to the complexity that conditions contemporary structures of relations between unjustly disadvantaged peoples for weak, small, underdeveloped countries. Isn’t this the case of the economic blockade to which our people have been subjected, whose automatic extension accumulates serious inconveniences to our Homeland? Inconveniences that weigh mainly on our workers in the city and the countryside, on our housewives, on our growing children and young people, on our sick, in short, so as not to lengthen cases, on so many families affected by the separation of their loved ones.
Seeking the good of our people and faithful in the service of the poorest according to the mandate of Jesus Christ and the commitment proclaimed again in Medellin, we denounce this unjust blocking situation that contributes to unnecessary suffering and making the pursuit of development more difficult. We therefore call on the awareness of those who are in a position to resolve it to take decisive and effective action to achieve the cessation of this measure.
At the conclusion of these reflections we make our own the words addressed by Paul VI to the Bishops of Latin America who express the attitude of the Christian to the problem of a world suffering and struggles to achieve its integral development. “The profound and forward-looking transformation of which society needs in many current situations, we will promote it by loving more intensely and teaching it to love, with energy, with wisdom, with perseverance, with practical attitudes, with confidence in men, with certainness in the paternal help of God and in the innate force of good” (D.M II, p. 27). All these recommendations of the Holy Father take on a special meaning within this eighth of the Passover of the Lord’s Resurrection, in which we rely to bring about profound change in our Christian life.
Havana, April 10, 1969.
Evelio, Archbishop of Havana
Alfredo, Bishop of Cienfuegos
Manuel, Bishop of Pinar del Río
Joseph, Bishop of Matanzas
Adolphus, Bishop of Camaguey
Alfredo, auxiliary bishop of Havana
Fernando, auxiliary bishop of Havana
Pedro, Apostolic Administrator of Santiago de Cuba