A time of grace and a new Pentecost - bishops’ message following plenary meeting

 Message of the AEC Bishops from the APM 2009

Disciples and Missionaries of Jesus Christ, so that our peoples may have Life in Him
“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” (Jn 14:6)

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

We, your Bishops of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) meeting in Martinique during the Easter Season for our Annual Plenary Meeting send you warm greetings and blessings in Christ Jesus our Risen Lord.

In May 2007, over 200 bishops from Latin America (LA) and the Caribbean along with clergy, religious and lay delegates gathered for three weeks at the shrine to Our Lady at Aparecida in Brazil, in an effort to build communion and
solidarity among our local Churches and to develop a common vision for the Church. The Bishops, wished to give a new impulse to evangelisation to ensure the continued growth and maturity in faith of our people.

Pope Benedict XVI in his Inaugural Address to the V Conference stated: “Through our baptism we are called to be disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ, sharing in his life, imitating his example and bearing witness to him in his call and the missionary mandate to ‘go out into the whole world; proclaim the Gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved’ (Mk 16:15). All baptized persons receive from Christ, like the Apostles the mandate to be disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ… Discipleship and mission are like the two sides of a single coin; when the disciple is in love with Christ he/she cannot stop proclaiming to the world that only in Him do we find salvation (cf Acts 4:12). In effect the disciple
knows that without Christ, there is no light, no hope, no love, no future” Relationship with Christ is at the core of our life as disciples (Inaugural Address #3).

The Church in the Caribbean today, in pastoral solidarity and communion with the Church in Latin America, has accepted the challenge to form disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ, so that our peoples may have life in Him.  What kind of disciples are we?

All in the Church are called to be disciples and missionaries. This requires a new way of thinking, seeing and acting. It requires formation for clergy, religious and all of God’s people in order to fulfil this task with responsibility and
boldness (Document of Aparecida, DA #3). Disciples are formed on the Word of God and the Eucharist. The mission that is envisaged by Aparecida is “a mission that must reach everyone, be permanent and profound (DA #5). Aparecida is not a new pastoral plan but a vision of Church to inspire and stimulate all the existing and future pastoral plans of all our local Churches.

When we recognize who we are as disciples and what our mission is, the Holy Spirit helps us to rediscover the beauty and joy of being Catholic Christians. Being Christian is not a burden but a gift. We are bearers of Good News for humankind. We also come to realize that we are called to be a Church with open arms that knows how to welcome and value each one of her members.

Aparecida is a new starting point of the New Evangelisation of our Peoples. It reinforces the preferential and evangelical option of the Church
for the poor, its preferential option for youth and commits itself to defend those who are weak. It calls upon leaders to defend the truth, respect life and the dignity of each person. It offers to contribute in the promotion of a culture of honesty that will heal the root of all forms of violence, illegal enrichment and generalized corruption. Today a choice must be made between paths that lead to life and paths that lead to death (DA #13). Clearly disciples have their mission cut out for them.

Sisters and Brothers, this is our time as Church, a time of grace and a New Pentecost. We cannot miss this opportunity. The vision must become a reality. From now on you will hear many references being made to Aparecida and to what it means to us in our forward march as Church in your own (Arch) dioceses and in the region.

Some (Arch)dioceses in the AEC are already on the road with
Aparecida. We are counting on you to help us implement this vision of Church for the new Millenium in all our local Churches. Only a disciple in love with the Lord can renew the Church! (cf. DA 201).

May Our Lady of Aparecida, our Most Holy Mother, Mary, Mother of the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean, Star of the renewed evangelization, first disciple and the great missionary of our peoples intercede for us.

Signed (The Bishops of the Antilles Episcopal Conference, Fort de France, Martinique 30 April 2009)