Caracas (Agenzia Fides) - The 3rd National Missionary Congress of Venezuela was celebrated April 9-13. The Congress began on the 9th with a missionary walk, led by the image of Our Lady of Coromoto, Patroness of Venezuela. The event was attended by over 700 people including Bishops, priests, religious, seminarians and lay faithful, according to a statement made to Agenzia Fides by Fr. Jose Rafael Romero Linares. “70% of the participants were young people that have taken seriously the call to follow God as coherent Christians,” Fr. Jose Rafael explained. During the walk, they prayed the Holy Rosary and when they arrived to the Church dedicated to Our Lady of Chiquinquira, there was Eucharistic adoration. Immediately following, there was an opening Mass for the beginning of the Congress, which was presided by Bishop Giacinto Berloco, Apostolic Nuncio in Venezuela and concelebrated by six Bishops. Among the concelebrants were Bishop Jesus Alfonso Guerrero, President of the Missions Committee of the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference; Bishop Josef Spiteri, Councilor of the Apostolic Nunciature and over 40 priests including Fr. Patricio Byrne, SVD, Secretary General of the Holy Childhood Association.
The Congress was attended by over 600 representatives from the various dioceses, parishes, religious communities, and lay groups of the country, in addition to the representatives from the Apostolic Vicariates of Machiques and Puerto Ayacucho.
The National Director of the PMS in Venezuela, in his welcoming address, said that this was an important moment for the missionary church in the country, as “all the events that we have recently lived invite us to place in action the Plenary Council of Venezuela and the 5th General Assembly of Aparecida.” He also pointed out that “the time has come for Venezuela to become real missionaries and to take the preaching of the Gospel seriously; it is the time to wake up and go on the mission...Venezuela needs to go out of its borders and give the world missionaries, in the ad gentes missions, priests, religious, and laity, families that can reflect the Family of Nazareth. Because it is in giving from its poverty that it will enrich our Church and strengthen our faith.”
Some of the talks that were given in the Congress were: “Historical-Theological and Ecclesiological Interpretation of Evangelization in Venezuela;” “Dossier on the Situation of the Missionary Church in the Five Continents;” “Reality of the faith and Christian Missionary life in Venezuela;” “Missionary Formation: A Perspective from the Aparecida Document;” and “Missionary Spirituality and Mystique.”
The 16 workshops resulted in 10 proposed plans such as working among the imprisoned, working with the African Americans, the family, ecology, the youth, education, and the indigenous people. They will be handed over to the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference for the National Missionary Plan. Cardinal Urosa closed the event with a “missionary sending,” presenting each participant with a cross as a symbol of their commitment. The next National Missionary Congress will take place in Valencia in 2012.
During the homily in the Closing Mass, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Sabvino, Archbishop of Caracas, expressed his wish that this Congress “bear fruits of increased missionary zeal...And, of course, that we may have the desire, the enthusiasm, and the will to be committed to the task of communicating our faith, whether it be in Venezuela, in missionary territories in our country or in other continents.” For this to take place, the Cardinal said, it is necessary that “the National Missionary Plan is established with decision and apostolic zeal, in order to strengthen the missionary spirit and organization of the Church in our country.”
He also expressed his desire that “enthusiastic thanks to this Congress, many Venezuelan youth may open their hearts to receiving the gift of the vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life, to announce and bear witness to Jesus and His love in the world,” as “all Venezuela, all our Dioceses and Vicariates need more priests and consecrated persons.” (RG) (Agenzia Fides 15/4/2008; righe 53, parole 647)