25 April 2018
To Accompany These Families with Patience and Mercy
The visit of the Bishops from the Antilles
On April 17th, our Dicastery received a large group of bishops from the Antilles on their Ad Limina Visit to Rome. The Bishops' Conference of the Antilles (AEC) unites Bishops from 24 territories that form a complex political, cultural, religious, demographic, geographical, historical, and linguistic reality. The diversity of the Antilles is also reflected in the physiognomy and in the life of the particular Churches in the Caribbean. For example, it includes countries where the Catholic population constitutes a large majority (e.g., Guadalupe 83% and Martinique 82%) while in others the Catholics compose a small minority (the Cayman Islands 3.6% and Jamaica 2.7%).
In spite of these differences, the countries are affected by common evils: the spread of sects, secularization, the crisis of the family, the decline of vocations, concern for young people, social tensions, poverty, the climate change, and above all the stigmata, not yet completely healed, of the slave trade.
To face some of these challenges, the Church in the Antilles has a long tradition of forming lay people, offering them many courses ranging from liturgy to communication, as well as biblical studies. In this sense, the ambitious ten-year pastoral plan adopted by the AEC (2016-2026), which aims at the systematic biblical formation of lay people of all age groups, deserves attention. Every three years, young people are invited to deepen their faith, cementing themselves in the study of a document of the Magisterium: this Initiative is proving to be very useful to help them acquire familiarity with the thought of the Church.
During the recent meeting, the concern for families resounded: in the light of the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, the Bishops reiterated the importance of patience, mercy, and accompanying the path of families towards the full discovery of their specific call to holiness. They recognize the value of marriage preparation and hoped that it will turn into a catechumenate for engaged couples. Finally, the Bishops concluded by recalling how, despite its fragility, the peculiar reality of the family in the Caribbean (the “Caraibian Family System”), with its resilience and inclusiveness, remains a strong point and a sign of hope for the whole society.