On May 12, during a press conference held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was presented the document “The Bicentennial: time for fraternal gathering of Argentines”, adopted by the Bishops’ Conference of Argentina (CEA), on the occasion of the plenary Assembly held past April. “These pages we present are thoughts we wish to share to prompt dialogue based on a historical event that made us grow as a Nation and which at the same time induces reflection on the kind of Country we want”, the bishops wrote in the introduction of the document presented by CEA President Monsignor Jose Maria Arancedo, by vice-President Cardinal Mario Aurelio Poli, and by the Secretary, Monsignor Carlos Malfa.
Common home. The document is divided into five chapters. In the first, titled “A just and expected reparation of memory”, the Church seeks to “turn our gaze on that first generation of Argentines who, interpreting a genuine feeling of freedom of the people they represented, took on the heavy responsibility of guiding pro-American ideals.” “Of the twenty-nine deputies who signed the Act of Independence, eighteen were laymen and eleven were priests – the bishops recall – and all unanimously upheld ethical principles inspired by Christian humanism.” The document devotes some thoughts to the “common home” that the Argentines set up, whose symbol is the historic house of Tucumán where members of Congress gathered to declare independence in 1816: “a family house”, “a borrowed home that rapidly became a common home, the home of all, for deputies from distant regions which soon identified each other as brothers.” This historic house “that excluded no one” inspired the bishops to invite to a reflection on the situation of indigenous peoples and on broken promises:
“Independence will reach full force and effect when the most marginalized Argentine family will have a dignified dwelling place to live, adequate health care and education, and when the parents will have dignified jobs”, states the document.
“The ideal of living Argentina as a big family, where fraternity, solidarity and the common good include all those who have been the pilgrims of its history is still far from being a reality” said the bishops, who pointed out: “Provinces without resources and poor homeless families, with many Argentines on the brink or outside of the labour market, do not reflect the federal aspirations of the Tucuman congressmen.”
For democratic life. In the second chapter, titled “Organizing the common home”, the bishops spoke about the meaning of concepts such as democracy, common home, people, and politics: “A democratic life of inclusion and integration requires the commitment of all. It is everyone’s responsibility, and especially that of those in leading roles.”
“The worst of our ills is the clash which prevents us from recognizing each other as brothers that leads to widespread corruption, the scourge of drug trafficking and the neglect of the environment”.
The third chapter, “Some ills of the common home”, states: “These are some examples that show that the great family of the Argentines is in danger and that the house we share could break apart.”
Formation of values. To take care of the common home, the prelates write in the fourth chapter (“Independence and education”),
It is necessary to further an educational process that will form the values of Argentines, providing them with the tools to identify their wrongs and developing in each one of them those civil virtues leading to a network of long-term commitments.
In Argentina’s educational tradition public schools run by the State have played a crucial role, providing millions of Argentines with quality education. Our wish is that it will continue growing along this path.” “We look forward to the consolidation of that specific formation and its resumption at all levels, to ensure that everyone can access education and remain in the education system, with equal opportunities up to the highest academic levels. ”
The bishops also spoke of the Christian educational project as the most genuine and valuable contribution offered by the Church to a new society and a truly free Country.
In the last chapter of the document the bishops reiterated their intention to present a metaphor of the common home, their Country, with the image of the historical home of Tucumàn. “For us – the prelates said – our homeland is a gift of God, a gift of His love we are called to cherish and promote. We are all called to build this common home through active dialogue that seeks consensus and furthers social friendship aimed at the establishment of a culture of encounter.” In their closing remarks the bishops highlighted the providential element of the Bicentennial: “two children of our land, the Venerable Maria Antonia de la Paz y Figueroa Blessed Jose Gabriel del Rosario Brochero, will be respectively proclaimed Blessed and Saint by the Church.”