They had gathered around the Altar of the Chair in St Peter’s Basiliaca for the Opening Mass of the International Congress on the Church in America. The congress, Dec 9-11, is marking 15 years since the Synod of Bishops for America.
The liturgical celebration was presided by Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who is also President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. At the end of the celebration the congregation was also addressed by Pope Benedict XVI.
He noted that the post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Ecclesia in America, cited challenges and difficulties that are still current. Challenges such as secularism and religious groups which, he said, are spreading, giving rise to numerous problems.
The Pope noted that there is an urgent need for an “education to and promotion of a culture of life” to counter the spread of a mentality “that undermines the dignity and protection of life” and does not favor the institution of marriage and family.
He asked “how can we not worry about the painful situations of migration, uprooting of peoples, or violence, especially those caused by organized crime, drug trafficking, corruption and the arms trade? What about the searing inequalities and poverty traps caused by questionable economic, political and social measures?”
“All these important questions require careful study. Yet in addition to their technical evaluation, the Catholic Church is convinced that the light for an adequate solution can only come from encounter with the living Christ, which gives rise to attitudes and ways of acting based on love and truth. This is the decisive force which will transform the American continent.
Dear friends, the love of Christ impels us to devote ourselves without reserve to proclaiming his Name throughout America, bringing it freely and enthusiastically to the hearts of all its inhabitants. There is no more rewarding or beneficial work than this. There is no greater service that we can provide to our brothers and sisters. They are thirsting for God. For this reason, we ought to take up this commitment with conviction and joyful dedication, encouraging priests, deacons, consecrated men and women and pastoral agents to purify and strengthen their interior lives ever more fully through a sincere relationship with the Lord and a worthy and frequent reception of the sacraments. This will be encouraged by suitable catechesis and a correct and ongoing doctrinal formation marked by complete fidelity to the word of God and the Church’s magisterium and aimed at offering a response to the deepest questions and aspirations of the human heart. The witness of your faith will thus be more eloquent and incisive, and you will grow in unity in the fulfilment of your apostolate. A renewed missionary spirit and zealous generosity in your commitment will be an irreplaceable contribution to what the universal Church expects and needs from the Church in America.
As a model of openness to God’s grace and of perfect concern for others, there shines forth on your continent the figure of Mary Most Holy, Star of the New Evangelization, invoked throughout America under the glorious title of Our Lady of Guadalupe. As I commend this Congress to her maternal and loving protection, I impart to you, the organizers and participants, my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of abundant divine graces.
Opening Mass of the International Congress on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the Synod of Bishops for America
St. Peter's Basilica in RomeDecember 9, 2012
“People of God, behold, the Lord will come to save all men.
The Lord will make his word resound for the joy of your heart”
Dear friends, let us welcome this promise of God that resonates in the heart of Advent and already fills us with hope and joy. We welcome it joyfully in the faith of Peter and of Mary, at the center of Catholicity, while bringing here the intentions of America and its response to the appeal of Blessed Pope John Paul II:
On the threshold of the third Christian millennium and at a time when many walls and ideological barriers have fallen, the Church feels absolutely duty-bound to bring into still deeper spiritual union the peoples who compose this great continent and also, prompted by the religious mission which is proper to the Church, to stir among these peoples a spirit of solidarity.
Motivated by this prophetic vision of Blessed John Paul II and engaged in its realization, we are gathered here, bishops, priests, religious and laity to take stock of the implementation of the Post-Synodal Apostolic ExhortationEcclesia in America. I am very happy to greet you all and to thank you warmly for having accepted the invitation of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, supported generously by the Knights of Columbus, and spending a few days of this Advent 2012 looking for a deeper communion and solidarity among our particular Churches in America.
The Synod of 1999 marked a milestone in reconciliation and effective collaboration between our dioceses of North America and South America. We are pleased to give thanks to God here at St. Peter's in Rome and invoke the Holy Spirit together with Our Lady of Guadalupe and Saint Juan Diego on another stage of new evangelization of the great continent that is home to more than half of the world's Catholics.The Word of God for this second Sunday of Advent throws light on the spirit and attitudes that should stimulate us in these days of reflection and hope. Let us listen to the prophet Baruch: Rise up, Jerusalem! Stand upon the heights; look to the east and see your children gathered from east to west at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God (Bar 5:5).The Word of God who unites us is Christ the Lord, the Desired of the nations. It is He who rises from the East as the rising sun, He whom America met and embraced 500 years ago, thanks to the maternal tenderness of Mary who deigned to manifest herself to Juan Diego with the Indian features of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Touched to the heart by the divine mercy revealed in these features, from that moment on, America marches forward in the hope of the God who comes in Christ, in the midst of the hopes and challenges of the present time.
For God has commanded that every lofty mountain and the age-old hills be made low, that the valleys be filled to make level ground, that Israel may advance securely in the glory of God (Bar 5:7).God decided to save his people and to lead them along smoothed paths toward the glory of his Kingdom. This is why Christ pitched his tent in America, especially among the poor, and He has established his home of glory among those who share his love. His great arms extended on the heights of the Cubilete (Leon, Mexico) and the Corcovado (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) beckon us to remain faithful to the courage of the missionaries, to the perseverance of the saints and to the blood of martyrs who have made America a sacred land.
Let us rejoice in His divine heart by welcoming in our turn the message of John the Baptist: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low” (Lk 3:4-5). The Church in America needs to hear again the call of the Synod of 1999, which has been revitalized for the universal Church by the recent Synod on the new evangelization, a call to conversion, communion and solidarity. There has never been a living Church without a permanent conversion of its members to the Gospel of Jesus Christ; there cannot be a living Church without a deep and frequent communion to the Body of Christ, the gushing and crystalline source of its unity; there will not be a radiant and missionary Church in America without a solidarity that is more concrete and creative between the North and the South of the continent.We are aware of these challenges, we want to approach them with the audacity of children of God who rely on His grace. This is why our presence in this basilica is foremost an act of faith in the spirit of the Year of Faith; it is also a plea to the Holy Spirit for the necessary conversion of our Churches to communion and solidarity among all.
The words of St. Paul to the Philippians fill us with hope: “The [God] who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6).Dear friends, let us welcome this word of comfort and hope that will be confirmed soon by our Holy Father Benedict XVI, Successor of Peter and guarantor of the unity of the whole Church. Let us open our hearts as God's children to the blessing of the Holy Father. The greatest grace of unity and solidarity between our Churches, we must draw from the charism of unity of the successor of Peter. Fifteen years ago it was he, in the person of Blessed John Paul II, who traced the road map for America to unite. Today, once again it is he, in the person of His Holiness Benedict XVI, who will confirm our momentum and initiatives of the new evangelization of the American continent. Let us thank God for the unity of the universal Church that lives within and protects the communion and solidarity of all the particular Churches.
This congress is placed especially under the patronage of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of the Americas, Star of the New Evangelization. As her beloved children, we humbly entrust to her our needs and our projects of the new evangelization, with the certainty that she will lead us safely to the joy of her Son, who was promised to the poor.Thus, says St. Paul, in righteousness, you will be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. Amen!
Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops
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