(Vatican Radio) Latin America and the Caribbean, the United States and Canada are
home to half the world’s global Catholic population. Pope Benedict XVI’s described
the Church in America as an irreplaceable source of “zealous generosity” and “missionary
spirit”. But according to the 250 participants at the International Conference underway
here at the Vatican, marking 15 years since Blessed John Paul II’s post-Synodal exhortation
Ecclesia in America, a lot more can and must be done. Emer McCarthy reports,
‘New Continent’ aims to be at the forefront of New Evangelisation: by harnessing the
untapped potential of Catholic laity north and south of the border; by strengthening
collaboration and coordination between the local churches, to build the civilisation
of love, evoked by Ecclesia in America; by seeing in the current anthropological
crisis an opportunity to spread the message that speaks strongest of Christ…love,
beginning with the family.
According to Dr. Guzmán Carriquiry Secretary General
of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, relations between the Churches on
the continent have at times been fragmentary. In fact he credits the 1997 Synod as
having had a ground breaking exploratory character in drawing American Church leaders
Today 15 years on, “many common realities and problems require greater
cooperation from the Churches on an inter-American level”, noted Commission President
Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet. The Cardinal who is also Prefect of the Congregation
for bishops spoke of the important presence of the "Hispanic" in Canada and the United
States, the unresolved and often dramatic issue of immigration, the spiral of violence
usually fuelled by drug trafficking networks and increased drug use. But above all,
the Cardinal signalled out attacks on the culture of life and the institution of marriage
and the family, which he described as a continent wide issue, and the need to safeguard
“We all know that in the Western world in a very special
way we are going through a very deep anthropological crisis”. “It is a sign of the
times”, he added “that the New Evangelisation really has to go through the testimony
of the laity, through sacramental marriage and the sense of the family as the heart
of the New Evangelisation”.
“In a cultural context where the Church is seen
a preaching from outside the culture, the witness of the laity, and of all Christians,
inside the culture is critical” said Carl A. Anderson, leader of the Knights of Columbus,
who are co-sponsoring the event with the Pope’s Commission for Latin America.
to Anderson, this begins with recovering “a sacramental understanding of Christian
marriage…we cannot in carrying forward the mission of the New Evangelisation, proclaim
the truth about man and his dignity unless we proclaim with courage and conviction
the truth about marriage and the family…”. “Today Catholics are called to evangelization
which of itself constitutes a kind of reform of how Catholics live”.
is needed is not simply new pastoral initiative towards those who no longer embrace
Christianity – though such outreach is of course imperative today – the New Evangelisation
must be broader and also more positive in scope” he continued.
may be prompted by, it cannot be determined by the crisis of our age…the message that
speaks strongest of Christ is love… beginning with the family and extending to the
more general. But nevertheless, urgent concern for the poor and those who suffer.
The Western hemisphere is fertile ground for the seed of this Christian charity.
Only by building a civilization of love can Catholics help build the authentic solidarity
and communion described in Ecclesia in America”.
“In the message of Our Lady
of Guadalupe and in the life of St Juan Diego it is manifest that this call for a
new assimilation and proclamation of the Gospel embraces the Church as a whole, in
every people and nation in which she is present”.