Guatemala City (Fides Service) – With joy and prayers the 2nd American Mission Congress was solemnly inaugurated in the afternoon of November 25 at the Paul II Auditorium in Guatemala City. Some 3.000 delegates including 8 cardinals, 113 bishops, 689 priests, 395 religious men and women, 27 deacons, 70 seminarians and thousands of lay persons, many of them young people have gathered for the week long missionary event.
Before the opening ceremony, a procession with the central American Holy Images of Santo Cristo d’Esquipulas, Our Lady of Guadalupe and San Pedro de Betancur, made its way to the Auditorium. Over the past twelve months of the Holy Missionary Year called by the Church in central America, the images have been carried to every diocese in the region. In Guatemala City thousands of men and women and children joined the procession along decorated streets: shops closed and many people left work to take part in the procession. And in fact it was so long that it reached the Auditorium an hour later than planned.
“We place the Congress and all the participants in the hands of Our Lady of Guadalupe and those of Cristo Negro di Esquipulas” said Card. Rodolfo Quezada Toruno, Archbishop of Guatemala, who welcomed the delegates, greeting especially the Papal Envoy, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe. His presence, the Cardinal said “prolongs the shining presence in our country of Pope John Paul II, tireless missionary who visited our country three times”. Cardinal Toruno affirmed the local Church’s fidelity to the Holy Father Santo Padre, “tireless missionary, defender of life and the values of the Gospel, Messenger of hope”.
Cardinal Sepe asked those present to pray for the Pope and he asked children, young people, the elderly and the sick to offer their sacrifices and sufferings for the Missions. The Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Ramiro Moliner, read the Message which John Paul II addressed to CAM 2, of which the whole text in our English translation can be seen on Fides web site.
Speaking to Fides Cardinal Sepe said “the fruits of years of hard work to prepare for CAM 2 are already visible” and he voiced the need to organise similar congresses for the continents of Africa and Asia, to obtain “fruits of renewed missionary commitment at world level”. The Cardinal said that the bishops of these continents had already been asked to examine the concrete possibility of organising other continental mission congresses. (S.L.) (Fides Service 26/11/2003; lines 31; words 432)