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AEC bishops attend Bible refresher course

Thirteen archbishops and bishops of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) reaffirmed their commitment to the distribution and implementation of the English translation of Animation of all Pastoral Life (ABP) for Latin America and the Caribbean at an intense 40- hour Bible refresher course in Miami, June 19–23.

The bishops also pledged to promote participation by ‘multiplier Agents of ABP’ in the Antilles region in the first Conference of Latin American Bishops (CELAM) course to be conducted in English in Trinidad, October 1–2.

Themed The Sermon on the Mount, the conference was the first course entirely in English involving CELAM, which comprises the Spanish-speaking Episcopal Conferences of Latin America along with Brazil.

A report on the bishop’s meeting sent to Catholic News from Deacon Mike James, Catholic Bible Federation (CBF) regional coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean, stated that each day began with the exercise of Lectio Divina on the daily Gospel reading with bishops and priests in their provincial groups.

The service team in Miami consisted of Frs Guillermo Acero and Damian Nannini, the respective outgoing and incoming Directors of CELAM’s CEBITEPAL (Pastoral Theological Biblical Center for Latin America and the Caribbean) Bible school; AEC General Secretary Fr John Persaud; Maria Diaz- James, Caribbean Co-ordinator of the CBF; and Deacon James.

Presentations were delivered by Dr Sixto Garcia, lay theologian, professor emeritus at St Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary, Florida; Prof Dr Gary Anderson, Harvard University Professor of Theology and a scholar of the Old Testament at Notre Dame, and Esther Terry, Director at University of Notre Dame, and other bishops.

An illustrative image presented by Dr Anderson of a 15th century funeral Mass ignited a “lively exchange” by the AEC bishops on “the inseparable link between the grace of the Eucharist and the practice of charity and service of the poor in the Gospels regarding eternal salivation”.

By coincidence, it noted, the recommended Gospel reading for the week of the course were all from St Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, “so that prayer followed study and vice versa.” It continued, “Also by fortunate coincidence, the course venue was in visiting distance of the Headquarters of Food for the Poor”, the Jamaican-founded agency, which provides food and other essential support to the very poorest in the Caribbean including Haiti, Jamaica and Guyana.

In their visit, president of Food for the Poor, Robin Mahfood underlined the role of the company in linking the Church of the First World with the Church of the Third World in a manner that helps both the materially poor and the poor in spirit, echoing the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount and Matthew 25:40, ‘As often as you did it to one of the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it to me’.

The Bishops thanked Mahfood and his team for “helping to spread the Bread of the Word in the region through repeatedly transporting Christian community Bibles purchased by the AEC from Miami to territories in the region at no cost”.

Following the visit, the bishops celebrated Mass at the recently completed Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe where Archbishop Thomas Wenski was the chief celebrant and host. On other days, Mass was led by bishops from the Kingston, Castries and Port of Spain Ecclesiastic provinces and by Cardinal Kelvin Felix.

At the formal closing Eucharist, chief celebrant AEC President Bishop Gabriel Malzaire presented certificates to participants in the course from the University of Notre Dame and CEBITEPAL.

Fr Persaud expressed special thanks to CELAM and the University of Notre Dame for their “organisation of the very timely and appreciated Bible Course for bishops,” and welcomed Fr Nannini as new CEBITEPAL president.