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Copyright: ZENIT/ Sergio Mora

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: United States Bishops Hand Pope Francis the Conclusions of the 5th Fifth National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry

ZENIT Speaks with Archbishop of LA & USCCB VP, Archbishop Gomez, Bishop Perez of Cleveland, & Auxiliary Bishop Cepeda of Detroit

A delegation of Bishops and laymen is in Rome, to hand Pope Francis a document with the Memoirs and Conclusions of the 5th Fifth National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry.

Pointed out in them is the necessity that Hispanics be able to serve the Church and the country better; that these faithful, in the majority young people, may assume their role as leaders and that these young people and young adults, duly formed, may be able to help the second and third generation of Latinos in the United States — all this without ceasing to be the voice of the migrants that have no voice, and without forgetting the integral formation of the sacramental and family life in communities, because the future vocations of priests and missionaries are in the families.

After a meeting they had Friday, Sept. 13, with Professor Guzman Carriquiry, Secretary and in charge of the Vice-Presidency of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, ZENIT spoke with the Archbishop of Los Angeles and Vice-President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Jose H. Gomez; with Bishop Nelson Perez of Cleveland; and with the Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit, Arturo Cepeda. Also with them was the Directress for Cultural Diversity in the Church, Mar Munoz-Visoso, the National Coordinator of the 5th Meeting, Alejandro Aguilera Titus, and the young University student Luis Pena, New Yorker of a Dominican family.

ZENIT: What are you going to hand to Pope Francis here in Rome?

Archbishop Gomez: We have come now to present to the Holy Father and the dicasteries, with the result of the 5th meeting, born of a process of listening and discernment.

We are going to share with the Pope the fact that the Church in the United States is a living Church, and that the Latinos, in particular the young people, with this process of the 5th Meeting, have understood that they are the leaders of the Church in the present and the future. We emphasize especially the youth pastoral ministry, so important also as a consequence of the Aparecida Meeting and the Synod on Young People.

ZENIT: What is the presence of Latino Catholics in the United States?

Archbishop Gomez: The Latinos are spread throughout the country and in all the dioceses there is a good Latin presence. Catholics are the largest religious minority, 37% at the national level with the characteristic that more than 50% of them are younger than 18 and Hispanic descendants.

ZENIT: Is there a pastoral ministry dedicated to them?

Bishop Perez: Yes, there is a Hispanic pastoral ministry, which is stronger in some places than in others, according to the population, but growing in the whole country, which has aroused great interest on the part of the Bishops. In the four previous Meetings, and precisely through the process of consulting them, the Church has already responded to the Hispanic presence in the United States, and each one of these Meetings left its mark.

ZENIT: How did the 5th Meeting come to fruition?

Bishop Perez: It was convoked by the Bishops in 2013, with a process of listening and questioning how the Hispanic presence can be better served, but also how the Hispanic presence can serve the Church and the country better, in other words, a two-way process.

One hundred and sixty-five dioceses (93%) took part in the 5th Meeting, with 3,000 parishes, which consulted over 350,000 people, that is, it started from the grassroots and culminated in a national meeting with over 3,400 delegates and 125 United States Bishops. This was a moment of great openness of the U.S. Church to the Hispanics but also of great openness of the Hispanics to the Church, its hierarchy and its Bishops.

ZENIT: What objectives have been highlighted after these consultations and the 5th Meeting?

Bishop Cepeda: One of the priorities and objectives in the results is to follow — as Bishops — the formation of the laity, of young people and of young adults, so that they can also help the second and third generation of Latinos in the United States.

Featured also is an integral formation of Ecclesial Movements, so that they can transform family and community life and our nation with their presence and dynamism. We have also understood the need to share the best practices, at the grass-roots level, in the dioceses and in the region.

Another topic is that of the accompaniment of our migrant brothers and sisters, having to pray for them, for their rights, for their dignity and to be a voice in their favor in the United States.

In addition, to seek an integral formation in the sacramental and family life of our communities, as the future priestly and missionary vocations are also in families.

ZENIT: In abuse cases the Pope wants zero tolerance. How is this working in the U.S.?

Archbishop Gomez: In all the dioceses of the United States we are convinced that there must be zero tolerance of sexual abuses. The Bishops, like all the faithful, are totally committed in the protection of children, and we are committed in all the parishes and in all the schools and ministries of the Church.

ZENIT: And what is the position of the Church on immigration?

Archbishop Gomez: On the subject of immigration, the Bishops of the United States are totally conscious of the need for a comprehensive migratory reform. For years politics has made it very difficult for this to happen. However, we continue praying and insisting that the United States must be an example for the whole world, because immigration is a reality and we must look for the way, so that people can move from one place to another in a legal manner. It’s important that each country respond to its obligation to protect its borders although, at the same time, each must have a migratory system that facilitates the movement of people.

ZENIT: How have young people lived through all this?

Luis Pena: All the events of the meeting were very important. They took into account what Pope Francis has contributed to the Church, in regard to listening to youth. We also realized that, if the community listens and invites a youth, specifically through formation, giving him the role of leader in the Church, a Hispanic youth could be the link between two generations or cultures that, otherwise, wouldn’t be achieved.  If we welcome young people — something that the Meeting did — we see that they have the capacity to contribute. So many young adults have taken important positions in the dioceses of the United States.

[Interview Translated from Spanish, by ZENIT’s Virginia Forrester]

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