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The Catholic Historical Review 87.2 (2001) 351-354



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Book Review

Los últimos cien años de la evangelización en América Latina. Centenario del Concilio Plenario de América Latina. Os últimos cem anos da evangelização na América Latina. Centenario do Concílio Plenario da América Latina. Simposio Histórico. Actas. Ciudad del Vaticano, 21-25 de Junio de 1999


Los últimos cien años de la evangelización en América Latina. Centenario del Concilio Plenario de América Latina. Os últimos cem anos da evangelização na América Latina. Centenario do Concílio Plenario da América Latina. Simposio Histórico. Actas. Ciudad del Vaticano, 21-25 de Junio de 1999. Edited by Pontificia Commissio pro America Latina. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana. 2000. Pp. 1548. Lire 160.000.)

In June, 1999, the Pontifical Commission for Latin America commemorated the hundredth anniversary of the Plenary Council of the Latin American bishops in Rome by holding a symposium. Los últimos cien años de la evangelización en América Latina reproduces the proceedings or acts of the symposium, which brought together nearly one hundred specialists in theology and church history, who analyzed and commented on the plenary council of 1899 and Latin American church history in general in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The plenary council is not well known, and whether or not it had a significant impact on the Church in Latin America is open to debate. Nevertheless, [End Page 351] it constituted the first meeting of the Latin American bishops in history, and for that reason alone it was memorable, and at the very least represented a first step toward the creation of a Latin American church. For forty-three days, from May to July, 1899, fifty-three Latin American archbishops and bishops discussed such issues as modern "errors" which had already been condemned at Vatican Council I (rationalism, free-thinking, etc.), dangerous associations and movements (masonry, anarchism, communism, etc.), church-state relations, sacramental practice, the formation of the clergy, canon law revisions, and suitable means to communicate the Church's message. The acts of the symposium include the official greetings, beginning with that of John Paul II, nine major plenary presentations (ponencias), and sixty-five shorter papers (comunicados). The presentations are divided into three parts: the Church and the political context of the nineteenth century; the plenary council itself; the impact of the council and other important events in the life of the Church in the twentieth century.

As we shall see, the symposium produced many excellent and very informative papers which merit the attention of scholars. Nevertheless, it should be noted that, given its official character, the symposium suffered from some of the limitations of a "controlled" meeting. It was by invitation only and academic pluralism and critical and original scholarship were not always the criteria for selecting participants. The vast majority were clerics, with only a sprinkling of laypersons. Several of the papers deal with liberal-Catholic clashes in the last century and offer few new insights. The papers on the twentieth century do not adequately reflect the reality of the Latin American Church. There is not a single paper on liberation theology, which most students of the Latin American Church would consider the most important theological current which that continent produced in the twentieth century. One of its leading theologians, Father Gustavo Gutiérrez, is mentioned once. The great progressive cardinals and bishops of twentieth-century Latin America--Helder Câmara, Paulo Arns, Oscar Romero, Raúl Silva Henríquez, Juan Landázuri Ricketts, among others, receive scant attention. The one paper on Protestantism is cast in a pre-Vatican II mentality and makes no reference to ecumenical relations between Catholics and Protestants. Only two papers deal with religious women. Several of the papers present church history in such an abstract and non-critical way that they are not useful for historians. A case in point is the plenary paper on the major episcopal assemblies, Rio de Janeiro (1955), Medellín...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-0708
Print ISSN
0008-8080
Pages
pp. 351-354
Launched on MUSE
2001-04-01
Open Access
No
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