Ethics & Public Policy Center

In the Shadow of Columbus



In Latin America, again this year, the desire for regional dialogue has remained strong. The year 1992 was an important anniversary for the continent. Latin Americans recalled the great human and spiritual epic of discovery and evangelization, with its lights and shadows. They have become more aware of their immense moral capacities for meeting the challenges of the hour, in particular those of social justice. The Catholic Church, so strongly present in this part of the world, will continue to offer her specific cooperation by proclaiming “the truth of Christ which must enlighten minds and hearts by the active, tireless and public proclamation of Christian values,” as I emphasized at the opening of the Fourth General Conference of the Latin America Episcopate on 12 October last in Santo Domingo. By so doing, the Catholic faithful and their Pastors will promote the moral renewal of the peoples of this vast continent, thus facilitating the construction of a more just and prosperous society with respect for their noble traditions.

Among the comforting signs which have marked the life of these peoples, one should note the fact that armed groups have laid down their arms, except alas in Peru, or at least are on the point of doing so, as in Colombia. The most eloquent example is provided by El Salvador where, on 15 December last, after twelve years of war, the government and the guerrillas officially put an end to the armed conflict. It remains to be hoped that the reconciliation which has been proclaimed will be affirmed more and more by the facts.

May this happy conclusion inspire another neighboring country which is also being torn by too much violence: Guatemala! There as elsewhere, a harmonious common life can be built only on respect for human rights and public morality.

I hope that other countries of the hemisphere will likewise make progress, from both the social and political points of view. My thoughts turn first to Haiti, where a serious, generalized crisis continues. Let us hope that Haitians too may live in civil peace and experience anew the dignity of citizens who are the artisans of their own destiny. The urgent needs of this sorely-tried people must be faced without delay. We must help them, as the local Bishops and many people of good will are trying to do.

Not far from there is another people particularly dear to me, the people of Cuba. The economic difficulties they are enduring and their international isolation are daily increasing the sufferings of the whole population. The international community cannot ignore this country. I likewise hope that the desire of Cubans for a society renewed in justice and peace will become a reality. Without claiming special privileges, Catholics wish to make their contribution to this internal evolution by the light of their Gospel witness.

George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. and holds EPPC’s William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.

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