· The bishops of CELAM will meet Pope Francis on the last day of his visit to Brazil ·
The relationship that exists between the Latin American Episcopal Council and the Holy See has been fundamental to the Council’s service to the 22 Bishops’ Conferences of Latin America and the Caribbean. It is not only a strategic relationship but also and above all a relationship of ecclesial communion which is indispensable, since the purpose for which the Council was set up was to promote and encourage collegiality among the bishops and communion among the bishops’ conferences. This task is obviously a service to the Petrine ministry which is why there must be the greatest possible communication and the best possible understanding between CELAM and the Holy See.
This requirement explains why the Executive Board pays an official annual visit to the Roman Curia and meets the Holy Father. In addition CELAM collaborates with joy and hope in the world gatherings sponsored by the offices of the Vatican Curia. One of these is the WYD, coordinated by the Pontifical Council for the Laity.
CELAM has always encouraged participation in it and has been present at the Days. Last year the Executive Board of CELAM decided to hold its general coordination meeting in Brazil, instead of in Bogota – where it has usually been held – so as to make it easier for the 50 Latin American bishops convoked to take part in the WYD as well.
All the arrangements had been made with a view to Pope Benedict XVI’s being present. The announcement of the Holy Father’s visit to our continent had been greeted with great joy, but the surprise that God had in store for his Church beat the wildest imagination: the election of a Pope who was a son of the Latin American Church.
I can consequently affirm that the already high expectations of the WYD in Rio de Janeiro have increased beyond measure.
In the more than 120 days that Pope Francis has piloted the Barque of the Church as Successor of the Apostle Peter he has demonstrated his special gift for communicating the essential traits of the Gospel and for moving the hearts of those who see and hear him. His great sensitivity in coming close to the people of today and in expressing his love for all, especially the sick and those who care for and nurse them, bears a credible and trustworthy witness to God’s presence in the world.
There is no doubt that the young people preparing to take part in or to follow the WYD are looking forward to hearing Pope Francis and are expecting of him both illumination and a horizon for discerning their own particular vocation and Christian mission. I believe that the right conditions exist for many to become aware that they are disciples and missionaries of Christ in the Church, to proclaim and bear witness to the merciful love of God the Father shown by the Holy Spirit in Jesus Christ, Our Redeemer.
CELAM and the pilgrim Church in Latin America and in the Caribbean
CELAM too will receive a gift from God in Rio de Janeiro. In fact Pope Francis wants to meet the 50 bishops responsible for the progress of the Episcopal Council for this four year term 2011-2015.
It will be the first time that a pope is present in the General Coordination Meeting, held annually to evaluate the activities that have been carried out and to define the programmes to be implemented, in conformity with the requests presented by the bishops’ conferences at the Ordinary Assembly of celam and drawn up in the Global Plan.
We await with great interest the message the Holy Father Francis will offer us in order to intensify our efforts and involve the continent’s bishops in the pastoral renewal of the Church, complying with the guidelines of the Aparecida Document.
We are at a crucial stage. The challenges inherent in the epochal change we are living through demand a rethinking of attitudes, structures and pastoral work in fidelity to Christ. To this end, we must discern the signs of the times, listening to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Churches. This is a collegial task. It will therefore be of enormous interest and importance to hear the voice of Pope Francis, who knows perfectly our ecclesial and social circumstances and the Document of Aparecida, as well as the contexts in which it came into being, and has developed and matured.
What pastoral horizon do we glimpse in the immediate future of the pilgrim Church in Latin America and in the Caribbean?
Results hoped for:
Within the Church
1. To renew the awareness and identity of Catholics themselves and to move on from being faithful to being disciples and missionaries of Christ who are integrated into and live in communities united with each other.
2. To make the most of one’s own Church and her ability to bring people together and to exert a cultural influence (institutional self-esteem).
3. To go beyond the 19th- and 20th-century labels and prejudices, acting with a view to the future rather than looking back at the past.
4. To transmit the Church’s values in a symbolic, visual, aesthetic and testimonial language
From the Church towards relations with society
5. To step out of one’s own environment to meet society in its different sectors, especially through the lay faithful.
6. To strengthen the Church's social foundations and structure them in order to enter into dialogue and participation with the different milieus of life and society.
7. To avail oneself of the emerging ecological awareness at a global level so as to recover an ethics founded on the laws of nature.
8. To collaborate in the process of inter-institutionalization, furthering the citizens’ participation in the various sectors and institutions.
9. To develop and consolidate the institutional relationship with the different Government bodies, seeking to bring dignity to human life dignified in all the classes, especially the poorest.
10. To learn to live in an intercultural context and thence to witness to the merciful love of God the Father.
11. To use the strategies for communication offered by the current technology, especially in order to enter the social networks with a propositional approach.
The wyd and the subsequent celam meeting with the Holy Father will certainly be emotionally and spiritually intense moments of thanksgiving and blessing and of great pastoral hope. In the history of the Church in Latin America and in the Caribbean they will also constitute a particularly significant step taken by God for the benefit of our peoples.
St. Peter’s Square
Jan. 18, 2018
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