If the Medellín CST document, Poverty of the Church (1968), was a document that argued the church should be poor because the faithful were poor, then the Puebla Conference Document (1979) argued that the future of the church’s history be the history of the poor also.
CELAM’s third meeting was in Puebla, Mexico in 1979. In this document the bishops put forth a radical missionary vision of the church in the world. This missionary vision included the preferential option for the poor, for women, and for younger generations.
The core themes of the document were (1) liberation of the poor and women, and (2) evangelization of young people. They sought to link the two together: the church’s mission in the world to liberate those on the margins of society and the church’s mission in the world to evangelize them. The Latin American church did so by advocating the formation of base communities of the faithful that could reflect on local problems and devise local solutions.
These base communities were another extremely powerful tool towards the structural transformation of a political-economy from which they were excluded. They gave a voice to the voiceless, and allowed the church on the ground and in the world to give witness to, advocate for, and organize political change with them and on their behalf.
Q. How can politicians support the missionary church in the world for the poor, for women, and for younger persons in a society where church and state are separate? What are some examples of Christian base communities in the United States today? How can we create more, advocate their cause locally, and place them at the center of our national public policy debate?
(*The following translated Puebla documents were accessed from Marquette University’s Latin American Theology Resources page.)