The prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and president of the Vatican's Latin America commission, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, opened CELAM's 23rd general assembly in Uruguay.

Archbishop José Octavio Ruiz Arenas, vice president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, is also attending the session. Archbishop Ruiz was appointed secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Evangelization of Peoples on Friday.

The Vatican officials are participating with leaders of 22 episcopal conferences that form part of CELAM, as well as the directors of education and research centers that the council sponsors.

CELAM has a general assembly every two years, but only every four years are officials elected.

The assembly will close on Friday with a mass in the national shrine of Our Lady, patroness of Uruguay.