VATICAN CITY, DEC. 10, 2012 (Zenit.org).– On Sunday evening, the International Congress "Ecclesia in America" on the Church in the American continent was inaugurated with a Eucharistic celebration in St. Peter's Basilica. The congress was organized by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and the Knights of Columbus in collaboration with the Institute for Guadalupan Studies, and will be inspired by the work of the Synodal Assembly, convoked by Blessed Pope John Paul II in November and December 1997, entitled "Encounter with the living Jesus Christ: The way to conversion, communion and solidarity in America".
Pope Benedict XVI, who addressed participants of the Congress in the evening at St. Peter's Basilica, recalled the foresight of his predecessor to improve the relationships between the churches of North, Central and South America.
"Today these themes merit review in order to put Christ's redeeming message into practice with greater diligence, in the hope of reaping abundant rewards of sanctity and ecclesial renewal," the Pope said.
"In effect, Jesus Christ's love and the power of His grace must take root ever more intensely in the hearts of the people, families and Christian communities of your nations, to allow them to progress with dynamism along the paths of harmony and fair progress."
Focusing his address on the Apostolic Exhortation, "Ecclesia in America", Pope Benedict said that the current challenges of secularism are giving rise to many problems. The Holy Father reiterated that education and promoting a culture of life are crucial combating the "widespread mentality that tends to attack the dignity of the person and damage the institution of marriage and family."
How can one fail to be concerned about painful situations of emigration, displacement or violence, especially when linked to organized crime, narco-trafficking, corruption and arms dealing? And how should we face the painful inequalities and areas of poverty caused by questionable economic, political and social measures?" the Holy Father asked.
Pope Benedict emphasized the participants' need to study these matters throughout the course of the Congress. An encounter with the living Christ, he stated, "is the decisive force which will transform the American continent."
"The love of Christ impels us to devote ourselves without reserve to proclaiming His name throughout America, bringing it freely and enthusiastically to the hearts of all its inhabitants," the Pope said. "For this reason we ought to take up this commitment, [...] encouraging priests, deacons and consecrated men and women and pastoral agents to purify and strengthen their interior lives ever more fully through a sincere relationship with the Lord and a worthy and frequent reception of the sacraments."
Concluding his address inviting all present to encourage catechesis and ongoing doctrinal formation that is faithful to the Word of God and to the Magisterium of the Church that is "aimed at offering a response to the deepest questions and aspirations of the human heart."
"A renewed missionary spirit and zealous generosity in your commitment will be an irreplaceable contribution to what the universal Church expects and needs from the Church in America," concluded the Holy Father.