The bishops of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) have released a pastoral letter on Mission and Evangelisation in the Caribbean, in which they hope to inspire the Caribbean Church to embark upon a new evangelisation, raise pertinent questions for reflection, and offer some practical and creative ways of deepening one’s missionary and evangelisation commitment in the 21st century.
Entitled A Mandate for the Kingdom: Mission and Evangelisation in the Caribbean, the pastoral letter is a deeper reflection of one issued 25 years ago—Evangelisation for New Caribbean which considered the meaning of evangelisation and the consequent mission in the Caribbean context.
AEC President Bishop Gabriel Malzaire of Roseau, Dominica; Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Harris; Archbishop Patrick Pinder of Nassau, Bahamas; Archbishop Kenneth Richards of Kingston, Jamaica; Bishop Gerard County of Kingstown, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and AEC General Secretary Fr John Persaud attended last Tuesday’s launch at The Seminary of St John Vianney and the Uganda Martyrs, Mt St Benedict.
Bishop Malzaire gave brief remarks stating he was “very happy” to launch this “important pastoral”, one he hoped the faithful in the region will enjoy and benefit from tremendously. Excerpts from the pastoral letter acknowledged that after 25 years, many aspects of Caribbean culture have remained the same.
“However, we can add to our list the effects of migration, human trafficking, gender identity issues and same-sex unions. While to a large degree these socio- cultural issues remain the same, we believe that the way of understanding, perceiving and addressing them has evolved.”
Commenting on this, Archbishop Harris believed that in fulfilling the mandate’s objective of deepening the Church’s missionary and evangelisation commitment, “we have to know what these issues are if we are to find a method of preaching the Gospel that makes sense in our age. Early on in this pastoral letter, the bishops attempt to discover the real concrete pastoral issues that exist”.
Archbishop Harris too agreed that the pastoral letter is “extremely important”, adding that the nature and goal of the Church “is the building of harmony to ensure [that] the cultural Caribbean reality in which we live, made up of so many different ethnicities, religions, ways of thinking, education, social levels…come together so that we become a united society and we are able therefore to give to the world a model to follow”.
Ultimately, it is the AEC bishops hope that A Mandate for the Kingdom: Mission and Evangelisation in the Caribbean will deepen reflection so as to keep pace with the evolving Caribbean culture, the soil of evangelisation.
The pastoral said that any discussion on evangelisation in the Caribbean must take current issues into consideration, including the reality that the religious landscape throughout the Caribbean is changing.
It highlighted that there is an increase in agnosticism, atheism, and growing secularisation; a rising percentage of the population who claim non-allegiance to any religious group; a decreasing membership in the traditional mainline churches, a growing Christian evangelicalism and a new wave of missionary groups from North and South America who see the Caribbean as a “fertile ground for evangelisation”.
The mandate on mission and evangelisation also examined that given the Caribbean’s historical context of dehumanisation and oppression, it is important that the Word of God and the Eucharist play a vital role in the evangelisation of the family, social structures and education.
“We wish to note here that our efforts in this regard will be tremendously enhanced if we are attentive to training and retraining at all levels so that as Church our people are equipped to participate effectively in the mission of evangelisation.”