Taking part in the conference was Cardinal Marc Ouellet, president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, Professor Guzman Carriquiry, secretary of the same Commission and Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus. Also present was Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office.
Cardinal Ouellet recalled the Synod for America, which took place in December 1997 which had as its theme, the "Encounter with the living Jesus Christ: The way to conversion, communion and solidarity in America.
The Canadian prelate expressed his desire that this theme would inspire the Congress to re-examine "the prophetic intuition of Blessed John Paul II and the basic content of the exhortation 'Ecclesia in America', as well as intensifying the communion and cooperation of the Churches in Canada and the United States with the Churches of Latin America in order to address common problems and challenges faced by the mission of the Church in the American continent."
"The valuable heritage of Christian faith, which is at the origin of the American 'New World' and inspires the life of its people, is now subject to erosion caused by waves of secularization and the impact of a global culture increasingly distant from and hostile to the proliferation of 'sects', and needs to be revitalized, reformulated and brought up to date. The encounter between the strengths and experiences of the Churches of God from different latitudes of the continent will surely be fruitful and rewarding. Such an exchange already occurs within the providential 'laboratory' created by the increasingly important Hispanic presence in the United States and Canada," the cardinal said.
Cardinal Ouellet also mentioned several of the common problems and challenges which have arisen during the last fifteen years that face the Churches of North, Central and South America. "The theme of immigration is a controversial topic in the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America; narco-trafficking networks, drug abuse and related policies are subject of serious concern and debate," he said.
"There is an increase in urban violence, especially among marginalized youths; the culture of life and the institution of the family are gravely threatened throughout the continent; the defense and promotion of religious liberty is of concern everywhere, and situations of poverty and indigence are widespread.
The president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America stated that in order to face these problems "in the light of the Church's mission", it is fundamental to "strengthen the sense of communion in each of the Churches and among them. Cardinal Ouellet also said that upcoming International Congress hoped to create "networks of friendship" throughout the American continent, as well as a "loyal sense of belonging to the Church."
"In this respect, it can be understood why this inter-American Congress is being held in the Vatican. Indeed, this highlights the universal care of the Churches which represent over fifty percent of the world's Catholics, in trust and devotion to Peter's Successor, universal Pastor, first witness and guarantor of unity and communion," Cardinal Ouellet said.
On the first day of the Congress, debates will be held on "the event in Guadalupe as the origin of evangelization in the New World" along with discussions on fundamental issues regarding cooperation between Churches throughout the continent.
Cardinal Sean O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston is also expected to lead a conference during the event entitled "Scenarios and proposals for communion and cooperation between the Churches of the Americas and for solidarity among their peoples."