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Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Esteemed Knights of Columbus,
I am most grateful for the words of the Lord Cardinal Marc Ouellet, President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, and I am delighted that, together with the Knights of Columbus, you wished to consider and project further the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America of Blessed John Paul II, which brings together the contributions of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for America.I cordially greet the Lord Cardinals, the Bishops, priests and consecrated persons, as well as the numerous laymen who have come to participate in this important initiative. Your faces bring to my mind and heart again the beatings of the American Continent, so present in the Pope’s prayer, and whose devotion to the Apostolic See I have gratifyingly experienced, not only during my pastoral visits to some of its countries, but every time that I meet here with pastors and faithful of those beloved lands.
My Venerable Predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, had the farsighted intuition to enhance relations of cooperation between the particular Churches of the whole of America, of the North, of the Center and of the South and, at the same time, to arouse greater solidarity between its nations. Today such resolutions merit being taken up again so that Christ’s redeeming message is put into practice with greater earnestness and produces abundant fruits of holiness and ecclesial renewal.
The theme that guided the reflections of that Synodal Assembly can also serve as inspiration for the works of these days: “The encounter with Jesus Christ alive, way for conversion, communion and solidarity in America.” In fact, the love of the Lord Jesus and the power of his grace must be rooted ever more intensely in the heart of the persons, families and Christian communities of your nations, so that the latter will advance with dynamism on the paths of concord and just progress. That is why, it is a gift of Providence that your Congress takes place after the beginning of the Year of Faith and after the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops dedicated to the New Evangelization, as your deliberations will contribute appreciably to the arduous and imperative task to make Christ’s Gospel resonate with clarity and audacity.
The mentioned Apostolic Exhortation already pointed out the challenges and difficulties that at this hour continue to be present with singular and complex characteristics. In fact, secularism and different religious groups are spreading to all latitudes, giving way to numerous problems. Education and the promotion of a pro-life culture is a fundamental urgency given the diffusion of a mentality that attempts against the dignity of the person and does not favor or protect the institution of marriage and the family. How can we not be concerned about the painful situations of emigration, up-rootedness and violence, especially those caused by organized crime, drug trafficking, corruption and the arms trade? And what to say of the lacerating inequalities and the pockets of poverty caused by questionable economic, political and social measures?
All these important questions require careful study. Yet in addition to their technical evaluation, the Catholic Church is convinced that the light for an adequate solution can only come from encounter with the living Christ, which gives rise to attitudes and ways of acting based on love and truth. This is the decisive force which will transform the American continent.
Dear friends, 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. There is no more rewarding or beneficial work than this. There is no greater service that we can provide to our brothers and sisters. They are thirsting for God. For this reason, we ought to take up this commitment with conviction and joyful dedication, encouraging priests, deacons, 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. This will be encouraged by suitable catechesis and a correct and ongoing doctrinal formation marked by complete fidelity to the word of God and the Church’s magisterium and aimed at offering a response to the deepest questions and aspirations of the human heart. The witness of your faith will thus be more eloquent and incisive, and you will grow in unity in the fulfillment of your apostolate. 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.
As a model of openness to God’s grace and of perfect concern for others, there shines forth on your continent the figure of Mary Most Holy, Star of the New Evangelization, invoked throughout America under the glorious title of Our Lady of Guadalupe. As I commend this Congress to her maternal and loving protection, I impart to you, the organizers and participants, my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of abundant divine graces.