.- Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, opened an international meeting on the Catholic Church in the Americas with a homily encouraging creative unity to advance new evangelization across two continents.
“(T)here will not be a radiant and missionary Church in America without a solidarity that is more concrete and creative between the North and the South of the continent,” the cardinal said in his homily at a Dec. 9 Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Cardinal Ouellet invoked famous American statues like Christ the Redeemer on Rio de Janeiro’s Corcovado mountain. That statue’s outstretched arms, he said, “beckon us to remain faithful to the courage of the missionaries, to the perseverance of the saints and to the blood of martyrs who have made America a sacred land.”
The Mass opened the international congress “Ecclesia in America.” The summit marks the 15th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s 1999 apostolic exhortation of the same name, which he delivered in Mexico City in response to a special synod of bishops on the Catholic Church in the Americas.
Cardinal Ouellet, the former Archbishop of Quebec, said that synod marked “a milestone in reconciliation and effective collaboration” between the Catholic dioceses of North and South America.
He urged the Catholic Church in America to hear that synod’s call “to conversion, communion and solidarity.” He said the 1999 synod has been “revitalized” by the 2012 synod on the New Evangelization.
The anniversary congress has over 200 participants including cardinals from Toronto, Boston, Guadalajara, Santo Domingo and Tegucigalpa, as well as bishops and archbishops from across the region. Other attendees include vowed religious, members of the Roman Curia and residents of the pontifical colleges from the region that are in Rome.
Cardinal Ouellet asked congress participants to look to Jesus Christ as they seek to address the issues confronting the Church in the Americas.
“God decided to save his people and to lead them along smoothed paths toward the glory of his Kingdom,” the cardinal said in his homily. “This is why Christ pitched his tent in America, especially among the poor, and he has established his home of glory among those who share his love.”
“There has never been a living Church without a permanent conversion of its members to the Gospel of Jesus Christ; there cannot be a living Church without a deep and frequent communion to the Body of Christ, the gushing and crystalline source of its unity,” he continued.
The cardinal said the challenges facing Catholics in the Americas should be approached “with the audacity of children of God who rely on his grace.”
The presence of the congress participants, he said, is “a plea to the Holy Spirit for the necessary conversion of our Churches to communion and solidarity among all.”
Cardinal Ouellet also encouraged participants to draw strength from their unity with the Pope, who addressed the congregation during the Mass.
“We are pleased to give thanks to God here at St. Peter's in Rome and invoke the Holy Spirit together with Our Lady of Guadalupe and Saint Juan Diego on another stage of new evangelization of the great continent that is home to more than half of the world's Catholics,” the cardinal said.
The international congress lasts from Dec. 9-12. The Pontifical Commission for Latin America and the Knights of Columbus organized the conference with the Mexico City-based Institute of Guadalupan Studies.