Saturday, 17 February 2007
I am very pleased to welcome you at the end of your
meeting in preparation for the Fifth General Conference of the Latin
American Episcopal Council [CELAM]. I offer a cordial greeting to
each one of you, starting with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, my
Secretary of State, whom I thank for his words expressing your
I thank the Cardinal Presidents of the Fifth General
Conference of the Latin American Episcopate and the Heads of the
Dicasteries of the Roman Curia who have contributed to your work.
In particular, I take this opportunity to express
once again to you, the Apostolic Nuncios present and all Papal
Representatives, my appreciation of the important ecclesial service
that you carry out, often among numerous difficulties due to the
distance from your homeland, your frequent travels and also at times
the social and political tensions in the places where you work. In
carrying out your sensitive task, which is of course motivated by a
deep spirit of faith, may each one of you feel accompanied by the
esteem, affection and prayers of the Pope.
Every Apostolic Nuncio is called to consolidate the
bonds of communion between the particular Churches and the Successor
of Peter. Together with the Pastors and the entire People of God, he
is entrusted with responsibility for promoting dialogue and
collaboration with civil society in order to achieve the common
Papal Representatives are the presence of the Pope,
who through them makes himself close to all those he is unable to
meet personally and especially to those who live in conditions of
hardship and suffering. Your ministry, dear Brothers, is a ministry
of ecclesial communion and a service to peace and harmony in the
Church and among peoples. Always be aware of the importance,
grandeur and beauty of this mission of yours and strive tirelessly
to carry it out with generous dedication.
Divine Providence has called you who are present
here to carry out your service in Latin America, described by our
beloved John Paul II
who visited it several times
as the "Continent of hope", as has already been said.
Please God, I will have the joy of coming into
contact personally with the situation in those countries when I
speak, God willing, at the opening of the Fifth General Conference
of the Latin American Bishops in Aparecida, Brazil, in the coming
month of May.
In a certain sense, this Assembly sums up and is a
continuation of the previous General Conferences, while it is
enriched by the many "post-conciliar" gifts of the Papal Magisterium
in particular the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation
Ecclesia in America springs to mind
as well as the other fruit of the Catholic Church's synodal process.
The Assembly proposes to define the important
priorities and to give a new impetus to the Church's mission at the
service of the Latin American peoples in the concrete circumstances
at the beginning of the 21st century.
This recapitulation refers to the Catholic tradition
which, thanks to an extraordinary missionary epic, took shape and
impressed its hallmark upon the cultural structure that has so far
been a feature of the Latin American identity. This was the original
as my late Predecessor John Paul II said at Santo Domingo
of "peoples whom the same geography, Christian faith, language and
culture have joined together definitively in the course of history"
(Address at CELAM's Fourth General Conference, 12 October
1992, n. 15; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 21
October, p. 8).
Starting with the theme of this important meeting:
"Disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ so that our people
may have life in him", you too have had the opportunity in these
days to highlight certain challenges which the Church encounters in
the vast area of Latin America, inserted into world dynamics and
conditioned increasingly by the effects of globalization.
In the face of these challenges, the nations that
make up Latin America seek in different ways to affirm their
identity and their weight in the historical process of the
contemporary world; they seek, all too often among numerous
difficulties, to consolidate domestic peace within their own nation.
Feeling like "sisters", they also aim to become a community united
in peace and in cultural and economic development.
The Church, a sign and instrument of unity for the
entire human race (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 1), naturally finds
herself in tune with every legitimate aspiration of the peoples for
greater harmony and cooperation, and makes her own contribution:
that of the Gospel.
She hopes that in Latin American nations where
constitutional Charters are limited to "granting" freedom of belief
and worship but do not yet "recognize" religious freedom, reciprocal
relations based on principles of autonomy and a healthy and
respectful collaboration can be worked out as soon as possible.
This will enable Ecclesial Communities to develop
their full potential for the benefit of society and of every
individual human person, created in the image of God. A correct
juridical formulation of these relations cannot but take into
account the historical, spiritual, cultural and social role played
by the Catholic Church in Latin America.
This role continues to be paramount, partly thanks
to the fortunate blending of the old and rich sensitivity of the
indigenous peoples with Christianity and the modern culture. Some
sectors, as we know, point to the contrast between the wealth and
depth of the pre-Colombian cultures and the Christian faith that is
presented as imposed externally from outside or as alienating for
the peoples of Latin America.
In fact, the encounter between these cultures and
faith in Christ was a response inwardly expected by these cultures.
This encounter, therefore, is not to be denied but deepened, and has
created the true identity of the peoples of Latin America. Indeed,
the Catholic Church is the institution which is the most respected
by the Latin American population.
She is active in the life of the people, esteemed
for the work she carries out in the sectors of education, health
care and solidarity to the needy. Help for the poor and the fight
against poverty are and remain a fundamental priority in the life of
the Churches in Latin America. The Church also actively intervenes
with her mediation, often requested on the occasion of internal
Today, however, among other things, this
consolidated presence must deal with the proselytism of sects and
the growing influence of post-modern hedonistic secularism. If we
are to find the right answers, we must think seriously about what
makes the sects attractive. In the face of the challenges of this
time in history, our communities are called to strengthen their
adherence to Christ in order to witness to a mature and joyful
despite all the problems
the potential is truly enormous.
And the spiritual potential that Latin America has
to draw on is truly enormous, where the mysteries of the faith are
celebrated with fervent devotion and confidence in the future is
nourished by the increase in the number of vocations to the priestly
and Religious life.
It is of course necessary to accompany the young on
the path of their vocation with great care, and to help priests and
men and women religious to persevere in their vocation. Furthermore,
an immense missionary and evangelizing potential is offered by the
young who account for more than two thirds of the population,
whereas family "feeling [is] a primordial trait of your Latin
American culture", as my venerable Predecessor John Paul II said at
the meeting in Puebla, Mexico, in January 1979 (Homily,
Palafoxiano Seminary, Puebla, 28 January 1979; Puebla and
Beyond, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, 1979, p. 78).
The family institution deserves priority attention;
it is showing signs of breaking up under the pressure of lobbies
that can have a negative effect on legislative processes. Divorce
and de facto unions are on the rise, while adultery is viewed
with unjustifiable tolerance.
It is necessary to reassert that marriage and the
family are based on the deepest nucleus of the truth about man and
his destiny; only on the rock of faithful and permanent conjugal
love between a man and woman is it possible to build a community
worthy of the human being.
I would like to highlight other religious and social
topics on which you have been able to reflect.
I shall limit myself to mentioning the phenomenon of migration,
closely linked to the family; the importance of school education and
attention to values and to the conscience, to train mature lay
people who can make a high-quality contribution to social and civil
life; the education of the young with an appropriate vocation policy
to accompany in particular seminarians and aspirants to the
consecrated life in their formation process; the commitment to
informing public opinion properly about the great ethical issues in
accordance with the principles of the Church's Magisterium and an
effective presence in the area of the media, also in order to
respond to the challenge of the sects.
Ecclesial movements certainly constitute a valid resource for the
apostolate, but they should be helped to stay in line with the
Gospel and the Church's teaching, also when they work in the social
and political realms. In particular, I feel it is my duty to
reassert that it is not the task of ecclesiastics to head social or
political groups, but of mature lay people with a professional
Dear Brothers, in these days you have reflected and
discussed together. Above all you have prayed together. Let us ask
the Lord, through the intercession of Mary, to grant that the fruits
of this meeting and of the upcoming General Conference of the Latin
American Bishops benefit the entire Church.
I thank you again for your work. On returning to
your countries, please convey my cordial sentiments to the Pastors
and the Christian Communities, the Governments and the peoples.
Please assure your collaborators, the women religious and all who
cooperate in the smooth functioning of the offices at your
Nunciatures of the Pope's spiritual closeness. I cordially impart to
one and all a special Apostolic Blessing.