I would like to thank the Diocese of Huron, represented by Bishop Linda, my diocese and USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) for the opportunity to be here with you during my sabbatical. It has been a good time for studying, reflection and most of all for meeting people.
I believe that the most difficult yet the most fascinating thing is precisely these encounters. Jesus was well aware of this, which is why he insisted in the Gospels that we love our neighbors. He also taught that it is through our own free will that we become neighbors to others. (Luke 10:36).
I see our companion relationship mainly as this contact that we provide between people. Human beings that are no longer just a number in the statistics or a name on a prayer list and they gain a face.
These connections that we make help us to understand, as did the English poet John Donne,that we are not islands, but we are part of this vast continent that is humanity. And we can explore the positive potentialities of what we call globalization or, if you prefer, mundialization.
I am sure that the Canadians who visited Brazil and the Brazilians who were here in Canada carry this experience with them now in their baggage. I am sure that all those who have an active role in the various companionship committees have been considerably transformed by this contact. After meeting new people we are never the same.
Each one of us now carries a part of the other, of Bob and Kathie, Saulo and Ruth, Stephanie, Joseane, Mary, Marcos, Lourdes, Peter, Victoria, Graham, Mona, Hilton, Sandy, Claire, Laurie, Gerard, Joy…And all the other people who have interwoven their lives in these companionship encounters. I must admit that standing here today, I can say that I am happy to have contributed in some way to this.
We strongly regret that visa problems have recently hindered the possibility of a greater approximation between us, but I hope that we will be able to change this situation in the future.
When I think about the future ofour companionship, I imagine that we could and should strengthen this contact between people. Promoting further face to face encounters continues to be an imperative. And not just meetings where we are physically present, other forms of contact can be tested and promoted. We have even thought about having a conference on mission using Internet resources. We also talked to our social action committees to contribute with one another – I see the urgency of this especially because of the difficult period my country is emerged in at the moment, apocalyptic times I would say. What is most important is that we keep trying. It is difficult for our “modern” minds, but I like the Spanish proverb that says: “the path is made by walking”.
At the level of our episcopal leaders, this path began here in Canada with Bob Bennett and Terry Dance, and now continues with Linda Nicholls. In the Amazon I have been trying to fulfill my role in these three years of our relationship. And I understand the honor of receiving the title of Doctor of Divinity Honoris Causa in part as recognition of this contribution to the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ. But this year it is also time for me to pass on this work to someone else. St. Paul, with a clear understanding of his mission affirmed: “What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow” (1 Corinthians 3:5-6).
Ruth, Thomas and I have decided that it is time for us to leave the region and continue our work elsewhere. I hope that somehow God embraces this decision in his heart. We still don’t know where we will go or what we will do next year…
What I am certain about is that this is a moment of farewell, I don’t know if we will have the opportunity to meet again, but I am sure that as Bishop of the Amazon this will be the last time we will be together.Therefore I would like to thank you very much for the warm welcome and the support we have received in these three years of companionship.We have truly shared our lives over this period and I carry with me the face of many friends who are part of the continent to which I belong.
Some time ago I met a young man from the African continentwho said he knew only two expressions in Portuguese which he learned during the socialist revolution in Mozambique. The first was: “Muitoobrigado” (thank you very much). And the other was: “A luta continua” (the struggle continues).
So from the bottom of my heart: “Muitoobrigado” and “a luta continua”.