Part II: Resources for Reconciliation[i]
J.M. Joseph Jeyaseelan, CMF
1) The first resource the Church has is its message of reconciliation itself, and the spirituality that flows from it. Among the many things we have mentioned in the sections above, one of the important things the Christian message of reconciliation offers is hope, a hopeful story to connect with, and to place oneself in that story. Pedagogy of the Cross of Christ, images, narratives, and stories from scripture provide important insights into what matters in reconciliation.
2) The second resource is the Church’s repository of rituals and sacraments. The Eucharist is a powerful symbol and ritual space of the presence as well as the absence of the Lord, and of how that heals memory and brings new hope. Furthermore, the Church can make use of its sacred space for important ritual moments that reach beyond the life of the Church and seal apologies, hear declarations of forgiveness, and celebrate movements into new places. It can in its preaching provide ongoing schooling in the spirituality of reconciliation. The funeral rites also give occasion to grieve the loss of and provide decent burials for victims of oppression. The Roman Catholic Church expresses the ministry of reconciliation in the Sacrament of Reconciliation as well.
3) The capacity to create communities of reconciliation is another important resource the Church possesses. The Church has resources in terms of trained personnel, infrastructure, and even finances to create spaces for safety, hospitality, memory, and hope that help to create communities of reconciliation. When these resources are turned inward (on and toward the Church members), it can help to create a cadre of reconciled people who can serve as leaven in the society providing the alternative vision and mission so much needed in our broken world. Moreover, since the Church is an international organization, it has opportunities through its relief and development agencies, through its international Religious Orders, and through compassionate solidarity to work for reconciliation.
4) The Roman Catholic Church also has a rich depository of Catholic Social Teaching (CST) which can provide essential insights on themes related to reconciliation. Though CST is popularly known as the best-kept secret of the Catholic Church, it is no secret that people from both within and without the Catholic Church have looked up to CST to provide guidance, wisdom, and inspiration for conflict prevention, conflict resolution, and peacebuilding.
5) Church’s magisterial: Though not many are related to reconciliation, the Church’s universal magisterium and local magisterial (regional, national, and diocesan) can offer important guidelines for the work of reconciliation. Africae Munus is one such important document from the universal Church.
Regional and national bishops’ conferences in some parts of the world either through documents, or practical guidelines, or by example have given pedagogical tools that churches in other places can adapt or draw inspiration from (for example, the engagement of Chile’s bishops’ Conference in the 1980s).
6) The personal stories of people are perhaps unnoticed or taken for granted, a resource the Church has and has hardly used. I would like to call it the “Church’s threshold stories and voices from the margins.” On the one hand, Church members have been accused of directly or indirectly being complicit in some conflicts (instead of being ministers of reconciliation). On the other hand, there have been many unknown and small successes, better yet, faithful stories of reconciliation initiated and sustained by a small cadre of Church-related individuals or groups. There are also many Church members who have spoken or written, often interpreting the gospel in a different way, from which “explosive insights” can be gleaned for the work of reconciliation.Tragically, since they may not be members of the clergy or from the Church’s hierarchy, sometimes or oftentimes those voices and stories are not taken seriously and considered as resources (within the Church) for the Church’s work of reconciliation. Even if some are priests, nuns, and bishops, they may be living on the margins of the institutional Church; or they are not “liked” by the center since they may be engaged in the work they do going well beyond the traditional confines of the Church’s “mission territory.” They may be working in an ecumenical or inter-religious context, which the center may find difficult to accommodate. But, I would like to propose that this is an important resource the Church must notice and capitalize on. (To be continued)
J.M. Joseph Jeyaseelan, CMF