The leaders of the Latin American bishops' council (CELAM) sent a letter to His Holiness Francis, congratulating him on his election as Bishop of Rome and Successor of Peter.

Here is a translation of the letter sent on behalf of all the bishops and prelates of the continent.

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Holy Father:

Gathered in Bogota at the meeting of the Presidency and Directors of CELAM with the Secretaries General of the 22 Episcopal Conferences of Latin America and the Caribbean, we wish to express to you, in this Year of Faith, our sincere affection in the Lord, our adherence and loyalty.

We have lived the experience of your election as Bishop of Rome and Successor of Peter, in an atmosphere of episcopal collegiality. This event has filled us with profound joy and thanksgiving to God because of what it represents for the universal Church and, in a special way, for the Churches journeying in Latin America and the Caribbean.

In this context your words, spoken in an interview on leaving the presidency of the Argentine Episcopal Conference, acquire for all of us a special and significant connotation: “CELAM has been transformed into something inspiring. The last Conference of the Episcopate in Aparecida is leaven of inspiration, it is a call to creativity, draws lines of missionary action. It does not end with a document as the previous conferences but culminates with a mission. This is very important.”

We wish to express to you, Holy Father, that we identify fully with your first message when you said: “And now we begin our journey: Bishop and people, the journey of the Church of Rome which presides in charity over all the Churches. A journey of brotherhood, of love, of trust among ourselves. Let us always pray for ourselves, for one another. Let us pray for the whole world, so that there will be great brotherhood.”

We place your Petrine ministry in Mary’s hands, Mother of the Church and Star of the New Evangelization, so that she will put in your heart the spirit of her Son Jesus, poor and humble, our Good Shepherd.

With humility, we implore your Apostolic Blessing for the Church of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Bogota, March 14, 2013

+Carlos Aguiar Retes

Archbishop of Tlalnepantla, Mexico

President of CELAM

+Dimas Lara Barbosa

Archbishop of Campo Grande, Brazil

Second Vice-President of CELAM

+Santiago Silva Retamales

Auxiliary Bishop of Valparaiso, Chile

Secretary General of CELAM

+Carlos Maria Collazzi, SDB

Bishop of Mercedes, Uruguay

President of the Executive Committee of CELAM