Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - On Saturday 17 February Pope Benedict XVI received in audience Papal Nuncios from Latin American countries in Rome for a meeting organised by the Holy See in view of CELAM 5, the 5th General Conference of the Council of Latin American Bishops’ Conferences in Aparecida, Brazil, from 13 to 31 May. (see Fides 15/2/2007). The Pope reminded the Nuncios of their calling "to consolidate the bonds of communion between the particular Churches and Peter's Successor…the responsibility to promote ... dialogue and collaboration with civil society in order to achieve the common good." Being a pontifical representative "is a ministry of ecclesial communion and a service to peace and harmony between peoples."
Recalling how John Paul II had defined Latin America as the "continent of hope," the Holy Father observed that the Fifth General Assembly of the Council of the Bishops’ Conferences of Latin America - which is to be celebrated in Aparecida, Brazil in May and which he is due to attend - "aims to identify the great priorities and to inject fresh energy into the Church's mission at the service of the Latin American people in the real circumstances of the early 21st century." This is all part of "the catholicity which ... has left its mark on the cultural structure that up to now has characterized Latin American identity."
Mentioning the problems facing Latin American countries “inserted in the dynamics of the world and increasingly conditioned by the effects of globalisation”, the Holy Father recalled that the Church “offers the contribution proper to her, the Gospel”, Pope Benedict expressed the hope that "in those Latin American countries with Constitutions that limit themselves to 'conceding' freedom of belief and worship, but still fail to 'recognize' religious liberty," reciprocal relations may soon be defined on the basis of "principles of autonomy and of healthy and respectful collaboration”. Recalling the “historical, spiritual, cultural and social role” the Catholic Church has always played in Latin America, thanks also to a blending of the rich centuries old sensitivity of the indigenous peoples with Christianity and modern culture, the Pope said “Certain circles, we know, speak of a contrast between the wealth and substance of pre-Colombian cultures and the Christian faith presented as foreign imposition or an alienation for the peoples of Latin America, when in fact the encounter between these cultures and faith in Christ was profoundly awaited by these cultures. This encounter therefore is not to be denied but rather intensified since it created the authentic identity of the peoples of Latin America”.
The Catholic Church is very active in the life of the people, esteemed for her work in the fields of education, health care and help for the poor and the struggle to eradicate poverty, and also requested mediation in civil strife. The Church today, however, must face "the proselytism of sects and the growing influence of secularism, therefore "our communities must consolidate their belonging to Christ in order to live a mature and joyous faith … truly enormous is the spiritual potential of Latin America where the mysteries of the faith are celebrated with fervent devotion and trust for the future is nourished by increasing vocations to the priesthood and the religious life”. The Pope stressed the need to follow young people undertaking the path a vocation and help priests and religious to persevere in their vocation. Latin American youth, over two thirds of the population “offers extraordinary potential for mission and evangelisation while families "show signs of giving way under the pressure of lobbies" which have the power to "exercise a negative influence on legislative processes. Divorces and illegal unions are increasing in number and adultery is regarded with unjustifiable tolerance”. The Pope said for this reason it is necessary “to reaffirm that marriage and the family have their foundations in the most intimate nucleus of truth about man and his destiny; a community worthy of the human person can only be built on the rock of faithful and stable conjugal love between a man and a woman”.
Among the other religious and social issues affecting the peoples of Latin America, the Pope mentioned migration, the school and attention for values and conscience “to form mature lay men and women able to offer a qualified contribution to social and civil life”; education of youth with adequate vocational plans; effective presence in the media. “Finally Benedict XVI mentioned ecclesial movements which, he said, represent "a valid resource for the apostolate, but must be helped to remain ever faithful to the Gospel and to the teaching of the Church, also when they work in the social and political spheres. In particular, I feel I must reiterate that it is not for men of the Church to head social and political groupings, but for mature and professionally trained lay people”. (S.L.) (Agenzia Fides 17/2/2007 - righe 61, parole 861)