VATICAN CITY, NOV. 30, 2009 ( The formation of the laity in the Americas is urgent to respond to challenges such as corruption, drug trafficking, violence and inequality, and to achieve a more just society, according to leading prelates from the continent.

This was one affirmation in a communiqué reporting on the Nov. 17-18 meeting of the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops. It was their 14th meeting and the sessions were presided over by Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, the secretary-general of the synod.

The cardinals and bishops who form part of this assembly dedicated working sessions to the broad field of pastoral work in the local Churches of the Americas, analyzing the ecclesial and social situation and the inculturation of the Good News on the continent.
The council described the social doctrine of the Church as a "source of effective answers to the different critical situations."
They pointed out that "it is important that in America, the agents of pastoral care assimilate this treasure," so that "enlightened by it, [they] are capable of reading the present reality and of seeking ways to respond."

In fact, the prelates emphasized, the formation of the laity is of primary importance.

The participants pointed to "worrying problems such as the drug trade, dirty money, corruption, violence, the arms race, racial discrimination, foreign debt, inequality between social groups and the irrational destruction of nature."
"The phenomenon of corruption is notably widespread," the prelates added. "The Church defends the efforts of civil authorities directed to eradicate it or at least to reduce it.
"She is willing to contribute effectively to eradicate this evil of civil society with an adequate education of the faithful and a greater presence of qualified lay Christians who, because of their family, school and parish formation, promote the practice of values such as truth, honesty, industry and service to the common good."

The Church is also collaborating to confront the problem of drug trafficking, the communiqué affirmed. Similarly, they urged that a "prophetic voice" be raised to denounce armament and the weapons trade, which they said absorbs great sums of money that should be used to combat poverty and to promote development.

The special assembly also considered the issue of immigration. The prelates observed how this "affects, in particular, numerous persons and families from Latin American nations, who have established themselves in the northern regions of the continent."
The bishops highlighted the value of their "cultural and religious patrimony, rich in significant Christian elements."

Among the hopes of the Church in America, the communiqué noted the great continental mission that is under way in the countries of Latin America to promote the new evangelization. It also highlighted the pastoral and development initiatives promoted by the Church, including that of solidarity with the poorest and the marginalized.
"Starting from the Gospel, a culture of solidarity must be promoted that encourages timely initiatives of support to the poor and the marginalized, especially refugees," they affirmed.

The special assembly participants also looked at inculturation, noting that it "responds to the primordial missionary nature of the Church, which proclaims the Lord's teaching, so that it will nourish thought and life."
They characterized the "rupture between life and the Gospel" as the "tragedy of our time."
And the communiqué added: "The process of inculturation depends in great measure on a balanced education in the faith, carried out above all in families, schools and Catholic universities and today, in a truly urgent way, through the media, whose correct and competent use is a vehicle of extraordinary pastoral efficacy."
The special assembly will reconvene for its 15th working meeting next November.