AREQUIPA, Peru, JULY 21, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Over 40,000 people gathered Sunday for a Eucharistic celebration marking the 400th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Arequipa, known as the “Rome of Peru.”
Benedict XVI sent Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, former prefect of the Congregation for Bishops as well as the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, as his special envoy for the event.
The cardinal presided over the Mass, during which he said: “May God bless Arequipa. May she ever be faithful to her Catholic identity and to the human and spiritual values that characterize her glorious history.”
In the Arequipa stadium of the National University of St. Augustine, the Pope’s envoy invited the faithful to be leaven of holiness and justice.
“May this archdiocese be, then, a lighted flame that burns always with the light of Jesus Christ and makes the truth, which the Church desires to transmit, shine,” he said.
The cardinal continued: “May it also be house and school of communion and fraternal love, house and school of prayer. May it be rich in holiness and leaven of justice, love and peace.”
The faithful carried banners, posters, scarves and multicolored balloons, with a preference for white and yellow (colors of the Vatican flag) to welcome the Holy Father’s representative.
The cardinal noted, “What has impressed me most is the participation of the laity in the life of the Church, and the intensity of the generosity with which they help the Church and the bishop.”
Cardinal Re was given as a memento of this visit an altarpiece of the Virgin of Chapi, an image of the Blessed Virgin that is kept at a sanctuary in Chapi, Peru, and is the goal of numerous pilgrimages every year.
The prelate was given another image of the Virgin for Benedict XVI, and he affirmed that he would transmit to the Pope the good impression he bears in his heart of this particular Church.
“I am happy to be here in representation of the Holy Father and to bring to all the greeting and blessing of His Holiness,” said Cardinal Re.
He noted that “Arequipa gave the Church a great blessed such as Sister Ana de los Angeles Monteagudo, as well as many good priests, bishops and two cardinals and illustrious personalities. Really the inhabitants of Arequipa, called the ‘Rome of Peru,’ can feel proud of their history and of the present reality.”
The cardinal observed that “the faithful of Arequipa do not limit themselves to a simple historical vocation, as there has also been reflection on the very meaning of being an archdiocese.”
In this sense he reminded his listeners that every diocese or archdiocese must reflect on itself, on its life and its activity, on the universal Church and its task of proclaiming and instilling in all people the Kingdom of Christ and of God, which is a “kingdom of holiness and grace, of love and peace.”
This mission, the prelate affirmed, is the task of each and all Christians.
Thus, he exhorted all those present, and those who followed on radio, television and the Internet, to proclaim the Gospel with the understanding that they are responsible for the task that Christ entrusted to his disciples.
Centered on God
Cardinal Re noted that “the problems that the society of today must address also here, in Peru, are many; economic, social, ecological and educational problems.”
“These are important issues that commit all of us,” he added. “But we never find a true solution to these problems if we do not place God at the center.”
The cardinal continued: “Far from God, man loses the meaning of his existence and society does not succeed in advancing towards greater liberty, greater humanity and towards greater commitment to finding the correct paths.
“Without God, man and woman no longer have the fundamental principles that illumine their path. It is necessary to again seek God, the true reference for one’s life and for one’s effort to build a better future.”
The prelate concluded by conferring an apostolic blessing on the people present, on behalf of the Pontiff.
Also participating in the celebration were: Archbishop Bruno Musaró, the Pope’s apostolic nuncio to Peru; Archbishop Héctor Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte, president of the Peruvian episcopal conference; Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne, archbishop of Lima and primate of Peru; Archbishop Javier Del Río Alba of Arequipa, and another 26 prelates of different ecclesiastical jurisdictions of Peru.
As part of the anniversary celebration, Archbishop Alba gifted memento plaques to the various religious orders that helped in the first evangelization of Arequipa: Franciscans, Dominicans, Mercedarians, Jesuits and Augustinians.
Cardinal Re then commissioned 750 missionaries, who represent the 10,000 from the diocese that will take part in the Great Continental Mission, which is under way in response to a request of the 5th General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean in 2007. The missionaries present came from various parishes and ecclesial movements of the archdiocese.