It was a great privilege for us to respond to the invitation of Church officials in Central America, to meet and talk firsthand with bishops, priests, religious and laity in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras. Attempts to build an ever closer relationship with episcopal conferences in other countries are an essential element of the witness which the hierarchy of our own country is increasingly called upon to give. Much conflict has occurred in Central America in recent years and the Church has suffered there, but we found the Church in that region to be alive, vibrant and full of hope. The recent announcement of the planned pastoral visit of Pope John Paul II has occasioned an enormous outpouring of enthusiasm among the local people. We found among the people of El Salvador, for example, a deep longing for peace and heard time and again expressions of appreciation and support for the Salvadoran bishops letter and the Popes plea for dialogue and reconciliation.
While the purpose of our visit was to confer with Church representatives, we paid courtesy calls to officials of the governments in the countries which we visited. In El Salvador we spoke with the President of the Republic and the President of the Supreme Court to express our concern about the judicial processes subsequent to the death of Archbishop Romero as well as the women missioners and labor leaders from our own country. Concerning Nicaragua, we want to stress our conviction that the cause of peace would not be best served by isolating Nicaragua from access to critically needed resources. We intend to urge our own government to avoid actions or statements that would tend to further such isolation. We recognize also the need to support the Church in Nicaragua in its efforts to maintain those basic human freedoms essential to its Christian heritage.
A confidential report will be made to the President of the NCCB concerning our discussions and observations. But we do wish to highlight one urgent problem in El Salvador that requires immediate attention. This is the tragic plight of the increasing numbers of displaced persons. Their homes and villages have been destroyed by military action; they have had to seek shelter elsewhere, often in areas far removed from their place of residence. Nonetheless since these persons are still within their own country, they cannot be classified as refugees under current United Nations definition. Consequently they are ineligible for the special assistance given refugees by the United Nations. We urge a review of this problem and a multilateral solution. The resources available in El Salvador are inadequate to meet these needs.
At the same time it remains urgently necessary to assist those numerous refugees in Honduras who have sought safety from El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala. The human suffering and misery of displaced persons and refugees must continue to be an urgent concern for us all.