The Church grows by the energy of Christ’s love and not by the power of ideologies, Pope Benedict XVI said on Sunday morning, during the inauguration of the 5th General Conference of Latin American Bishops at the Marian shrine of Aparecida, Brazil.
Addressing a crowd of more than 300,000, including the some 200 Latin American cardinals and bishops arrived for the meeting that will last until May 31, the Pope said that “Mary welcomes us to this Upper Room and, as our Mother and Teacher, helps us to pray trustingly to God with one voice.”
Commenting on the Sunday’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Pope Benedict said, “Church’s leaders discuss and argue, but in a constant attitude of religious openness to Christ’s word in the Holy Spirit.”
“This,” he said, “is the ‘method’ by which we operate in the Church, whether in small gatherings or in great ones. It is not only question of procedure: it is a reflection of the Church’s very nature as a mystery of communion with Christ in the Holy Spirit.”
The Latin American Bishops will discuss the future of the new evangelization in the region and will draft a document aimed at guiding their pastoral policies for the next decade. Addressing the Latin American Bishops, the Pope said, “To you who represent the Church in Latin America, today I symbolically entrust my Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, in which I sought to point out to everyone the essence of the Christian message.”
He then explained that the Church “does not engage in proselytism. Instead, she grows by ‘attraction’,” “just as Christ draws all to himself by the power of his love.”
Benedict XVI stressed then that “this is the priceless treasure that is so abundant in Latin America, this is her most precious inheritance: faith in the God who is Love, who has shown us his face in Jesus Christ.”
“This is the faith that has made America the Continent of Hope. Not a political ideology, not a social movement, not an economic system: faith in the God who is Love,” the Pope added, sparking a long applause from the crowd that included large delegations from South American countries.
Recalling Pope John Paul
The Pontiff went on to remind those present, “Pope John Paul II called you to a new evangelization, and you accepted his commission with your customary generosity and commitment.” “I now confirm it with you, and in the words of this Fifth Conference I say to you: be faithful disciples, so as to be courageous and effective missionaries!”
“Through the prayers of the Virgin Mary, may the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean be abundantly clothed with power from on high,” he said in closing.