SANTIAGO, Chile, MAY 28, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Being a Christian means being sent to build the Kingdom of God — a particularly urgent mission for the Church in Latin America, according to the archbishop of Santiago.
Cardinal Francisco Errázuriz spoke of the “continental mission” in the latest edition of the Catholic University of Chile’s review “Humanitas.” The continental mission was called for by the 5th General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, which Benedict XVI opened near the shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida in Brazil in May 2007.
Cardinal Errázuriz was a co-president of the conference. His article in “Humanitas” relived his experience and assessed the year-long progress of the continental mission.
“Over the past decade, the number of Catholics has declined as never before in history, while Pentecostal communities and sects continue to multiply,” the cardinal noted. “Indifference and unbelief have increased; the latter, in many countries, among many young people. The urgency to go out and evangelize has become an imperative.”
Cardinal Errázuriz stressed that a return to Aparecida implies a renewed focus on its central message — the call to follow the living Christ “who makes us his missionary disciples,” a vocation to which all Catholics are called.
“To be a Christian does not consist merely in being baptized and participating occasionally or frequently in the celebrations of the People of God,” he explained. “To be a Christian is to be always a missionary disciple of Jesus Christ, in communion with his own, sent to build his kingdom.”
The cardinal lamented a progressive disappearance of the Christian spirit in the culture of Latin American nations.
“In many countries we carry on our shoulders the heavy cross of losing in the public domain, in political discourse and in much of the media, where there is no evidence of the meaning of our lives as Christians, and no memory of the contributions of Christianity to our peoples,” he said.
Cardinal Errázuriz thus appealed for an evangelization of culture. It is necessary, he said, “to focus on the evangelization of our convictions, of our behavior and customs, on the cultivation of our relationship with nature, among ourselves, and with God.”
He explained, “The Aparecida conference saw evidence in Latin America and the Caribbean of great wavering in the realm of convictions and values; the confusion caused by those who wish to replace the Catholic substratum of our culture with other models of life, family and social relations; a lack of coherence with the faith in innumerable baptized persons, and the inability demonstrated by so many architects of society to opt preferentially for the poor when it comes to key decisions.”
Cardinal Errázuriz also highlighted the universal responsibility of every Catholic in this mission, addressing in particular the lay faithful present in the secular world.
“The quest for the good of our peoples in all its secular dimensions, and the transformation of the structures of society so that they will be favorable to life, is a task that implies an option for the specific mission of the lay faithful in the midst of temporal realities, a responsible and active presence in the new and old Areopagi, in the cities and countryside, in the peripheries and in the centers of decision-making,” he said.
The prelate further stressed the need to defend the fundamental role of the family in society and the essential right to life.
The Christian option for life, he said, “is also an option for the family, for the culture of life and for life itself. In regard to family ministry, after pointing out the threats that face the family as a living reality and as an institution, the document of Aparecida insistently appeals for a focus on the family, given that the family is the value most cherished by our peoples, [and this focus] should be taken up as one of the transversal axes of the whole evangelizing action of the Church.”