Pope: Faith Is Latin America's No. 1 Resource
Celebrates Inaugural Mass of Aparecida Conference

APARECIDA, Brazil, MAY 13, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Latin America's primary treasure is its faith in God, Benedict XVI said at the inaugural Mass of the general conference of the continent's bishops.

More than 150,000 listened to the Pope's homily during the open-air Mass celebrated today at the shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, prior to the opening session of the 5th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Bishops representing more than half the world's Catholics will meet through the end of May. The theme of the assembly is "Disciples and Missionaries of Jesus Christ, So That Our Peoples May Have Life in Him."

The Holy Father said in his homily: "This is the priceless treasure that is so abundant in Latin America, this is her most precious inheritance: faith in the God who is love, who has shown us his face in Jesus Christ."

Benedict XVI added that in his first encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est," he "sought to point out to everyone the essence of the Christian message."

"The Church considers herself the disciple and missionary of this love: missionary only insofar as she is a disciple, capable of being attracted constantly and with renewed wonder by the God who has loved us and who loves us first," he emphasized.

Missionary identity

Speaking in a country that in recent years has seen the rapid proliferation of some fundamentalist sects, the Bishop of Rome wanted to make it clear that "the Church does not engage in proselytism."

"Instead, she grows by 'attraction': Just as Christ 'draws all to himself' by the power of his love, culminating in the sacrifice of the Cross, so the Church fulfills her mission to the extent that, in union with Christ, she accomplishes every one of her works in spiritual and practical imitation of the love of her Lord," the Pope added.

Touching on a central theme of the episcopal meeting, Benedict XVI said: "You believe in the God who is love: This is your strength, which overcomes the world, the joy that nothing and no one can ever take from you, the peace that Christ won for you by his Cross!

"This is the faith that has made America the 'continent of hope.'

"Not a political ideology, not a social movement, not an economic system: Faith in the God who is love -- who took flesh, died and rose in Jesus Christ -- is the authentic basis for this hope which has brought forth such a magnificent harvest from the time of the first evangelization until today."

Go forth

At the end of his homily, Benedict XVI reiterated Pope John Paul II's call for a new evangelization of the Americans.

The current Pope said: "I now confirm it with you, and in the words of this fifth conference I say to you: Be faithful disciples, so as to be courageous and effective missionaries."



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