Summit of the Americas: Invitation to Build a Better World

Wednesday, April 04 2001

(Ottawa — CCCB) The Permanent Council of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) is inviting government leaders in the Americas to adopt economic policies that promote and protect human dignity and the common good.

At a news conference in Quebec City, Archbishop Maurice Couture, CV, who is also a member of the Permanent Council, made public a CCCB message entitled That None Be Excluded, prepared on the occasion of the Summit of the Americas to be held in Quebec City, April 20-22.

The message draws upon the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America which states: “The goal of the Church is to ensure that no one be excluded.” The statement goes on to say: “It is evident that the production of greater wealth does not in itself lead to more equitable distribution of that wealth, and that ‘the new economy’ is promoting greater inequality faster than ever before.”

Noting the gap between rich and poor continues to grow ever larger, the 15 bishops from across Canada currently on the Permanent Council arrived at their findings in view of discussions with their brother bishops from the South and also continued requests for assistance from communities in Latin America, as well as based on pastoral visits that Canadian bishops and other Church representatives have made to many impoverished areas in the Americas.

The Permanent Council statement insists that since governments have been entrusted by their citizens with promoting the common good, they should not relinquish their powers to intervene. For governments to do so, the bishops state, would be to fail to assume their own responsibilities and “render themselves impotent in the face of economic forces that are able to increase production and profits but unable to guarantee the distribution of any resulting benefits.”

While not rejecting free trade, the bishops insist that “efforts toward continental economic integration would enjoy popular support if the agreements included serious guarantees for economic equity, environmental protection and greater participation by women in the conduct of the economy and society in general.”

“Government leaders and Parliaments should carefully consider what a wider open market will mean in its consequences for the poor, women, indebted nations and the victims of human rights violations,” the statement continues.

Without violence

Together with many other groups in civil society, the CCCB Permanent Council regrets the lack of transparency involved in the Summit of the Americas. Its success would be enhanced, the bishops say, “if it takes place with greater transparency than has characterized its earlier stages. The citizens of the continent need to be able to contribute more to these crucial debates which determine our common future.”

The bishops also attach great importance to popular action aimed at influencing the official Summit, including “the parallel Summit organized by the Hemispheric Social Alliance and other peaceful means by which public opinion is expressed in democratic countries. We want the voice of the people to be heard without violence, no matter who may be responsible, and without disruption to the legitimate expression of opinion.”

Urging government leaders and the peoples of the countries involved in discussions on economic integration to address the social and environmental impact of open markets, to emphasize human rights and democratic structures, and to promote development that respects the dignity of individuals and communities, the message from the CCCB Permanent Council concludes with the hope that “the third Summit of the Americas in Quebec City assist in building a better world with all our sisters and brothers of the Americas.”