BRASILIA, Brazil, APRIL 19, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The struggle against hunger, and relations between a priest and his community, were among the key topics discussed at the General Assembly of the Brazilian bishops’ conference.

The assembly, which opened April 10, ends today in Itaici. The assembly also marked the 50th anniversary of the bishops’ conference, highlighted at the opening by the presence of Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops, and a message from John Paul II for the occasion.

“Your country, of continental dimensions, always needs new laborers for its harvest, and your episcopal conference must continue to respond solicitously to the mandate to proclaim the Gospel,” John Paul II wrote.

The high point of the meeting was the conference’s pilgrimage to the Marian shrine of Aparecida.

The president of the conference, Bishop Jaime Henrique Chemello, delivered a homily there, in which he explained the meaning of the document “Ethical and Evangelical Requisites to Overcome Poverty and Hunger,” which was approved during the working sessions by the assembly.

Despite the progress in science, technology and economics, “hunger continues as a more visible and grave indicator of the inhuman situation, which places our country among the most unjust in the world,” the bishop said.

“Palliative and compensatory responses” are not sufficient to combat this plague, he contended. What is needed is a “new mentality and firm and audacious public policies,” Bishop Chemello insisted.

Meanwhile, a survey at a national meeting organized by the bishops’ Commission of the Clergy promoted the image of the priest as a “man of the community.”

Among those surveyed, 88% had a very positive view of their relation with the community and parishioners, and with various movements and associations. Yet, the assembly emphasized the need for formation that involves psychologists and instructors.
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