Below is the full text of the Homily delivered by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Pontifical Comission for Latin America, during the opening mass for the ECCLESIA IN AMERICA congress, celebrating 15 years since the Synod of Bishops for America.
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 Exhortation Ecclesia 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!
(CNS PHOTO/Paul Haring)