Meeting of the Bishops of the Church in America

Thursday, February 21 2002
image of the american hemisphereMeeting of the Bishops of the Church in America

February 18 – 20, 2002
Sáo Salvador de Bahia, Brazil

For Immediate Release


This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the annual meeting of bishops from Latin America and the Caribbean, Canada and the United States. Meeting in Sáo Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, twenty-nine bishops gathered to discuss matters that affect the Church and society throughout the hemisphere. Representative bishops from the Consejo Episcopal Latinoamericano (CELAM), the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) gave reports on how globalization has affected their countries. Much of the discussion centered on discovering collaborative responses to the challenges which globalization presents for the pastoral and prophetic responsibilities of the bishops.
The meeting was the fourth gathering since the publication of Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America, which promoted closer links among the people of the region in the new millennium. In his Apostolic Exhortation, the Pope stated:

A feature of the contemporary world is the tendency towards globalizalion, a phenomenon which, although not exclusively American, is more obvious and has greater repercussions in America …The ethical implications can be positive or negative… While acknowledging the positive values which come with globalization, the Church considers with concern the negative aspects which follow in its wake. (EA, #20)

United in prayer and guided by the Holy Spirit, the bishops, gathered as brothers, determined to share particular concerns about globalization as well as to reflect upon those themes that are common to all the people of America. Globalization offers special opportunities for new forms of evangelization, especially in relation to youth culture, as well as calling for serious ethical reflections.

The meeting took place less than a month after an important conference sponsored by the three episcopal bodies, which was held in Washington, D.C., on the theme of Humanizing the Global Economy.

The overall theme of the meeting in Brazil was The Response of the Church in America to the New Global Reality. The reflection of the bishops centered on issues such as the external debt of the poorest countries, the growing inability of many nation states to regulate effectively the processes of globalization, and the troubling fact of economic exclusion of millions of the region’s poor who have yet to benefit from the emerging economic reality. The bishops do not see their role as merely responding to the effects of globalization. If globalization is to develop in a positive way, the bishops recognized the need to develop a new social consciousness to establish greater links between politics, economics and ethics.

Special presentations were made on specific questions of great current interest, such as the economic and political crisis in Argentina. The bishops also heard presentations on the situation in Venezuela, and the challenges of evangelization efforts with the Afro-Brazilian population. Special attention was placed on the changing reality in each region after the tragic events of September 11 in the United States.

The bishops committed themselves to continued cooperation and dialogue on many broad topics that the globalization theme presents, especially in the context of the plans for a Free Trade Area of the Americas intended to go into effect by 2005. New means of pastoral cooperation and greater efforts to promote economic development in the South are essential elements of a globalization designed to serve the common good.

Finally, much was learned from the experience of the 2001 Synod of Bishops in Rome, which took place last October. The common perception was that the Brazil meeting continued the fraternal spirit of the theme of the Synod, The Bishop: Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World.