WASHINGTON (March 12, 1998) -- In the cooperative spirit of last year's Synod of Bishops for America, Bishops from Germany and the United States have opened a dialogue on ways to offer financial assistance to the Chuch in Latin America.
At meetings in Essen, Germany, March 6-9, representatives of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and Adveniat, the funding agency of the German Bishops, agreed to on-going, regular contacts to aid the Church in the poorest countries of Latin America, Haiti and the Central American countries, in particular.
Bishop Roberto Gonazalez of Corpus Christi (TX), Chairman of the NCCB Committee for the Church in Latin America, called the meetings "very fruitful." Bishop Gonzalez was joined at the meetings in Adveniat's offices by Father James Ronan, Executive Director of the NCCB Secretariat for the Church in Latin America. Adveniat was represented by its president, Bishop Franz Grave, and its director, Msgr. Dr. Dieter Spethahn.
Among the priorities identified was the need to "teach the teachers." An increasing number of vocations to the priesthood and religious life in Latin America has created a need for qualified academic staff and spiritual directors at seminaries and novitiates.
Participants also agreed that assistance to the Church in Cuba is an important priority. Bishop Grave said that the liberties conceded to the Church in Cuba prior to the January visit of Pope John Paul II "must be preserved and, in the long run, expanded." To support efforts to strengthen the Church in Cuba, Bishop Grave noted that Adveniat's 1998 fund raising campaign will emphasize assistance for the Cuban Church.
To continue the dialogue begun this past weekend, the German and American participants tentatively agreed to several informal meetings in the future. The first will be planned in conjuction with Pope John Paul II's anticipated visit to Mexico City in late 1998 or early 1999, where he will formally close the Synod for America with the release of an apostolic exhortation. A follow up to that meeting is tentatively planned for Washington in March 1999. Bishop Grave will also invite representatives of the Church in North, South, and Central America to join him in Essen for the first Sunday of Advent in 1999.
The NCCB Committee for the Church in Latin America, and its corresponding Secretariat, oversee and administer an annual collection in parishes throughout the United States. Proceeds from the collection are used to fund grants to dioceses, seminaries, and other pastoral agencies in countries throughout Latin America.