A major meeting led by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and co-sponsored by the Knights of Columbus is discussing the role and mission of the Catholic Church in North, South and Central America. The conference is taking place at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City from Nov. 16 to 19.
The conference, titled "Our Lady of Guadalupe, Star of the New Evangelization on the American Continent," will pay special attention to the important role of Mary's apparition at Guadalupe in the subsequent — and ongoing — evangelization of the American continent.
The event is co-sponsored by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, the Knights of Columbus, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the Instituto Superior de Estudios Guadalupanos.
Building on a similar event held last year in Rome, this conference takes on a special significance in light of the March 13 election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires as the first pope from the American hemisphere.
Inspired by Blessed John Paul II's exhortation "Ecclesia in America" (The Church in America), which was published in the wake of the Synod for America held in 1997, the conference will include addresses by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and former primate of Canada; Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson; Msgr. Eduardo Chavez, director of the Instituto Superior de Estudios Guadalupanos; Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York; Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley; newly elected president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville; in addition to other leading members of the clergy and laity from throughout the hemisphere.
The conference will focus on the Church's continental mission in light of Our Lady of Guadalupe's important place as Mother of the Church in America and in the wake of the election of Pope Francis, whose impact within the region — and beyond — will be the subject of much discussion.
Pope Francis will address the group via a video message on opening day, Nov. 16, following words of welcome by Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, archbishop of Mexico City, and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Vatican's apostolic nuncio in Mexico.
"At Guadalupe, Mary's message was one of love and reconciliation, which can be seen echoed in Pope Francis' efforts to reach out to the poor and marginalized, to the fallen-away and those who have never really followed Christ," observed Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, who will address the gathering on the Church's New Evangelization in a talk on Sunday, Nov. 17. "Pope Francis has focused on the New Evangelization with a model that is clearly related to the American model embodied by Our Lady of Guadalupe — a model based on loving outreach, on charity and on concern for the spiritual and physical well-being of all."
Pope Francis' Video Message to Conference
"Missionary outreach is paradigm for pastoral action"
Missionary outreach is “the paradigm for all pastoral action,” said Pope Francis in his remarks today in a video message to participants at a four-day pilgrimage-encounter in Mexico. The conference, held 16-19 November, was organized by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.
The Pope spoke about the need for creativity and about the missionary impulse in the evangelizing work of the Church, making reference to the conclusions of the Fifth General Conference of Latin American Bishops, held in 2007, commonly referred to as Aparecida.
“Aparecida,” he said, “proposes to put the Church in a permanent state of mission… And this, in the certainty that missionary outreach, more than being one activity among others, is a paradigm, that is, the paradigm for all pastoral action.”
The intimacy of the Church with Jesus is an “itinerant intimacy,” he said, which calls people out of themselves to reach out to others.
“It is vital for the Church not to close in on itself, not to feel already satisfied and sure with what it has accomplished,” he said. “If this happens, the Church will get sick, it will get sick with imaginary abundance… in a certain sense it will ‘get indigestion’ and will weaken.”
All pastoral activity is oriented by the missionary impulse to reach everyone, he continued. “It is necessary to go out of one’s community and to have the boldness to go to the existential peripheries, which need to feel God’s closeness,” he said.
Evangelization is not exclusive and it considers the circumstances in which people find themselves. Christians must share the joy of having encountered Christ and not impose new obligations, reprimand others or complain about that which they consider to be lacking.
“The work of evangelization demands much patience,” he said. It also presents the “Christian message in manner that is serene and gradual… as did the Lord”.
It privileges that which is “essential and most necessary, that is, the beauty of the love of God, communicated in Christ, who died and resurrected.”
He urged Christians to step outside of their usual ways of doing things. “We must force ourselves to be creative in our methods,” he said. “We cannot remain confined in our common space of ‘it was always done this way’.”
Temptation of Clericalism
The Pope also addressed the role of clerics and religious in the Church. He said a bishop leads the pastoral life of the Church with tenderness and patience, “manifesting the maternity of the Church and the mercy of God”. The attitude of the true pastor must not be that of a prince or of a bureaucrat. Instead, a bishop must care for his people, knowing how to discern the movement of the Holy Spirit.
Pope Francis also addressed the need to deal with clericalism. “The temptation of clericalism, which does much damage to the Church in Latin America, is an obstacle to the development of maturity and Christian responsibility of a good part of the laity,” he said.
He described clericalism as a “group attitude” that is “self-referential” and which impoverishes encounter with Christ, which is what creates disciples.
“Therefore, I believe it is important, urgent, to form ministers capable… of encounter, who know how to enflame the hearts of people, walk with them, enter into dialogue with their hopes and fears,” he said.
He added that today’s culture requires good priestly formation, and he questioned whether the Church had “sufficient capacity to be self-critical in order to evaluate the results of very small seminaries, which have a shortage of formative staff”.
The Pope also said consecrated life is leaven for the Church and urged consecrated men and women to be faithful to their communities’ charisms, which are a “great prophecy… for the good of the Church”.
The Pope concluded by urging his listeners to live their baptismal call in faith and to share it with others.
(CNS Photo/ Bob Roller)