Caribbean Bishops reflect on ‘Reconciliation’ ahead of Annual Plenary Meeting

CATHOLIC STANDARD Friday, May 9 th, 2014








The Annual Plenary Meeting of the Bishops of the Caribbean, currently underway in Mandeville Jamaica, always begins with a day of prayer and reflection. The theme of this year’s Retreat was “Reconciliation” and leading the Bishops in this time of reflection was Fr. Robert Schreiter, CPPS.

In his first session he developed the theme by exploring five points using personal stories:

* Reconciliation is what God is doing for us in Christ. If God is not directing this

then reconciliation becomes impossible. God is the initiator.

* Healing the victim, even before an apology or when no apology is forthcoming,

the victim is offered a way of healing and moving forward.

* Creating a new beginning, creating spaces that facilitate this process. It is not

about forgetting what has happened but helping persons to move beyond the

anger, hurt and pain to find a new moment.

* Embracing suffering that is redemptive. Unless we are able to see our suffering

through the suffering of Jesus, then suffering can be destructive - it can destroy us

and all our good intentions.

* Living HOPE as a way forward, celebrating the small things as signs of hope which

strengthens our resolve and allows us to open to possibilities.

The bishops were given some quiet time for prayer and reflection on Fr. Robert’s input. Then after a break they were invited to share in small groups on anything that emerged out of their personal reflection.

Fr. Robert then spoke of a Spirituality of reconciliation which allows us to create safe and hospitable spaces for persons to come and talk about their stories of conflict and anger so that they can work through their stories of pain and hurt.

It was stressed that these spaces must be SAFE so that from a position of TRUST per-sons can be encouraged to open up again. This trust is a form of faith that sustains relationship with God and with others.

The space must also be hospitable there-fore it must be welcoming and inviting that allows persons to relax and feel comfort-able.

Circles of persons who come together to talk about their pain and brokenness;

There are some basic rules that govern this process for example “what is said in the circle stays in the circle”.

Fr. Robert then pointed out that a key element in the ministry of reconciliation is CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER. This is a way of deepening our relationship with God and allowing oneself to listen to God. Prayer allows us to see things differently even at times living with the absence of God. It helps us to listen, sometimes to hard things, listening with patience. It helps us to contemplate our own wounds, and we all have wounds that we carry around.

WOUNDS from its Greek origin is trauma. If you do not acknowledge your own wounds they can get in the way. Wounds of victims are important because that is what healing is about. However, we are more than our wounds. If we cannot see this then it inhibits us in the healing proc-ess. There are wounds of the wrong doer. People are afraid to work with these wounds because you appear to be on the side of the wrong doer. Then finally there are the Wounds of Christ.

There are three stages of dealing with wounds

1. To acknowledge that we have them

2. To allow them to be seen by others

3. Allowing them to become a source of healing.

Jesus’ wounds in John’s Gospel.

Mary goes looking for Jesus and his body is gone. Jesus speaks her name and she recognizes him and tries to touch him. He says do not touch me.

Jesus has a transformed body but still carries his wounds.

Many victims are unable to show their wounds.

Then he comes to the disciples through locked doors and shows them his wounds.

Then he comes another time and invites Thomas to touch his wounds.

There is a theology of wounds that can be at the service of a Ministry of Reconciliation.

Developing one’s moral imagination is important in developing a spirituality and ministry of reconciliation.

Spirituality rather than strategy.

Where people see POLARITY we must see PARADOX. You have to come to a point where you can see that there is room for not only you but also for your enemy.

Finally Fr. Robert spoke of the use of Ritual in this ministry.

While we cannot change the past we can change the way we see the past. Ritual allows us to move through time, to see possibilities, to see it differently. The Power of ritual helps to give expression to things we cannot find words for.

Symbols make life liveable.

The day of RETREAT was followed by the opening Mass in St. Paul of the Cross Cathedral at 2.00 p.m. The Eucharist was pre-sided over by Kelvin Cardinal Felix, assisted by Archbishop Patrick Pinder, the President of the Bishops Conference, Archbishop Girasoli, the Papal Nuncio and Bishop Neil Tiedemann, C.P., Bishop of Mandeville.

Eighteen other Bishops, including the Archbishop of Miami, and a number of priests of the Diocese of Mandeville and the rest of Jamaica concelebrated. A spirit filled and uplifting Liturgy sought to assure the Bishops of the prayerful support of the People of God as they enter these days of deliberation. At the end of the Mass Archbishop Pinder as President of the Conference thanked the Bishop, priests, religious and people of the Diocese of Mandeville for their kind hospitality in receiving and providing for the Bishops as they held their 58th Annual Plenary Meeting. Then the Papal Nuncio addressed the congregation expressing his gratitude and calling on all to express the unity of the Church by living the way of love. After the Mass the faithful together with religious and priests were able to meet the Cardinal, Archbishops and Bishops. The Bishops will continue their with a “STUDY DAY” on Monday be-fore getting down to their packed agenda on Tuesday. 