By Jesús Colina
ROME, DEC. 10, 2009 (Zenit.org).- As American Christians prepare to celebrate on Friday the feast of the continent’s “empress,” Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Rome there has been talk of the growing Hispanic presence in the United States as an opportunity for the Church.
The implications of this demographic and migratory phenomenon were pointed out on Wednesday by John Thavis, Rome director of the U.S. Catholic News Service. Thavis was presenting the Italian edition of “A Civilization of Love” (Vatican Publishing House), by the supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, Carl Anderson.
According to the U.S. episcopal conference’s Secretariat of Hispanic Affairs, more than 35% of the U.S. Catholic population is Hispanic.
Since 1960, Hispanics have contributed 71% of the growth of the Catholic Church in the United States, and more than 50% of all Catholics in the country younger than 25 are of Latino heritage. More than two thirds (68%) of all Hispanics in the United States (45.5 million in July of 2007) consider themselves Catholics.
Moreover, it is estimated that by 2050 the Hispanic population in the United States will number more than 102.6 million.
Anderson takes up the issue of immigration in the ninth chapter of his bestseller.
The author — who was received in audience by Benedict XVI today — explains his belief that the solution to immigration issues is of utmost importance for the Church in the Northern Hemisphere and in the world.
He says the key to resolving the immigration issue is remedying the economic inequality between the United States and its southern neighbors.
Anderson urges individual Christians and the nation to take up a greater commitment to Mexico and Latin America. He encourages Catholics on both sides of the border to work together to find solutions to poverty and promote educational and economic opportunities.
He contends that this is a special responsibility for every Catholic in the United States, particularly those in business and finance.
We should not wait for the arrival of political solutions to assume this commitment, Anderson affirms.
No need to re-invent
In the presentation of the book, which took place in the headquarters of Vatican Radio, Thavis said that Anderson “invites United States Catholics to reflect on their attitude to immigrants from Latin America, many of whom are illegal.”
“He says that the Church cannot witness the Gospel if her members regard these immigrants with hostility. One wonders if the most comfortable Catholic population has already forgotten that poverty led their European predecessors to come to the United States,” the journalist said.
“And he stresses that this Hispanic influence is, in fact, a positive factor for the Church, which can give new vigor to parishes, in places where parish life is disappearing,” added Thavis, who is considered one of the most authoritative correspondents in Rome.
He continued: “Anderson concludes that the future of the Catholic Church in the United States is irrevocably tied to the future of the Hispanic community. Anderson is not the only one who recognizes the long-term impact of immigration, but it is interesting that he, who is also a businessman, does not reduce the future of the Church to the effectiveness of her marketing strategy, nor does he believe that the Church must re-invent herself to attract and keep the faithful.
“On the contrary, he sees in the religiosity of the Latin American people and in their traditional culture of life a solid basis for the future.”
World Youth Day: a key meeting
In statements to ZENIT, Anderson said that in the present continental and global context, World Youth Day ’11 has particular importance for the new evangelization. Benedict XVI will host the event in Madrid in August 2011.
“Given that it is being held in Spain,” Anderson observed, “it arouses enormous interest in the whole of Latin America and, hence, in the Church in the United States.”