Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - From May 13-31, 2007, Aparecida (Brazil) hosted the Fifth General Conference of Latin America and the Caribbean, which was inaugurated by the presence and words of Pope Benedict XVI. Its theme was: "Disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ, so that our peoples may have life in Him."
In the Final Message, dated May 29, 2007, the Bishops expressed their desire, in union with the entire Church, to “embrace all our brothers and sisters on the continent to convey God's love and ours.” With the power of the Holy Spirit, all Catholics have been called, in unity and enthusiasm, to carry out a Great Continental Mission. This mission must be a new Pentecost that encourages us to reach out in a special way to those Catholics who have fallen away and those who know little or nothing of Jesus Christ. This mission should reach out to everyone and should be permanent and profound.
Everyone must feel the responsibility to evangelize those who are closest to them, those who live in their own country or related by family ties, realizing that this is how they can cooperate positively in Christ's desire that the Gospel comes to "the whole world." The Latin American Church is blessed by God with many vocations. Those who have received the Gospel from the Old Europe, are now missionaries in many parts of the Christian West that is going through a serious crisis.
In the inaugural speech in which the Holy Father addressed the participants of the V General Conference of Latin America and the Caribbean, he recalled that the Christian faith has allowed Latin America to know and accept Christ, the unknown God whom their ancestors sought, without knowing it, in their religious traditions. Through the waters of baptism they have received divine life, the incomparable dignity of being children of God. The Pope also said that “the proclamation of Jesus and of his Gospel did not at any point involve an alienation of the pre-Columbian cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture” (Benedict XVI, Inaugural Address, May 13, 2007).
Commenting on the theme of the Conference, “Disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ, so that our peoples may have life in Him," the Pope noted that the baptized are convinced that they can find divine life in Christ, and this is what leads them to offer everyone the gift they have found in Him. The Church must always follow the path of the Gospel, without borrowing criteria from ideologies which are not only foreign to, but also go against, the Gospel. In order to carry out this work of evangelization and proclamation, knowledge of the Word of God is a necessary prerequisite, “otherwise, how could they proclaim a message whose content and spirit they do not know thoroughly?” (Benedict XVI, ibid.)
We cannot forget that evangelization always goes hand-in-hand with human development and authentic Christian freedom. Therefore, Benedict XVI affirms: “Love of God and love of neighbor have become one: in the least of the brethren we find Jesus himself, and in Jesus we find God” (Deus caritas est, 15). We must become disciples in order to become missionaries. Discipleship and mission are like two sides of same coin: when the disciple is in love with Christ, he cannot fail to proclaim to the world that He alone is our salvation.
Together with the Latin American Bishops, let us join in praying that the Continent of Hope may also be the continent where all the faithful see themselves as missionaries of Christ's love, life, and peace. (Agenzia Fides 29/10/2010)