In this Holy Year marked by the extraordinary pastoral visit of Pope John Paul II to Central America and the Roman Synod on Reconciliation, we bishops of the United States wish to express our deep sense of solidarity with our brother bishops of Central America and, through them, with all the priests, religious and laity of that region.
In their joint communique three months ago, the archbishops and bishops of the countries of Central America and Panama, meeting in regular session of the SEDAC Council of the Presidency, described the reality of their countries as typified by “virtual state of civil war, grave political, economic and social disturbances, the result more often than not of long-standing and flagrant injustices and of differing ideologies that, while diverse, are equally inhuman and dehumanizing.”
“Our people,” they continued, “equally suffer because of the meddling of foreign powers, come to support those in the countries who fit their own interests which are generally far from, even opposed to, those of the great majority.”
“The consequences of this are the cold-blooded killings, an endless chain of vengeance, absolute disregard for life and the dignity of the human person, huge numbers of displaced persons and refugees, prisoners and disappeared. Irreconciliable hatreds are being fomented, deep divisions, arbitrary suppression of individual freedoms and guarantees, disinformation, merciless destruction of goods and services and the resultant general impoverishment.”
These bishops stressed the Church’s oft-repeated insistence on the need for “an honorable and civilized dialogue” between and among the contending parties; elections “absolutely free of all coercion or manipulation” respecting the people’s “sacred right to give themselves the kind of government they desire”; and the withdrawal of all “outside powers and ideological forces that are interfering politically and militarily in Central America, contrary to our cultural values.”
We join with our brother bishops in affirming these goals. Indeed these objectives have been central themes in the positions we have taken on U.S. policy in Central America. We promise our continued effort to do what we can to further them, and we express once again our support and admiration for the suffering church and people of Central America. Continued instances of violence directed against bishops, priests and laity, most recently in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala, only heighten our concern.
With the bishops we make our own the prayer that “Christ Jesus make us effective instruments of His Peace” and that “Mary, God’s Mother and ours make possible that, from Panama to Guatemala, there be built among us a civilization of love.”
Adopted by National Conference of Catholic Bishops at the Annual Meeting of the Bishops, Washington, D.C., on November 17, 1983