.- Church leaders from North, Central and South America are meeting in Rome to discuss the New Evangelization across the region and discover how the Church can respond to shared societal problems.
"Three things stand out to me as particularly important for our discussion at the conference next week," said Carl Anderson, head of the Knights of Columbus, the world's largest Catholic fraternal organization.
"Firstly, that America, broadly defined as the entire American continent from Alaska to Argentina, is a key area for the work of the New Evangelization, and that it remains a Christian continent," Anderson said at a Dec. 4 Vatican press conference.
"Secondly, that ‘Ecclesia in America’ reminds us that the laity has an indispensable role to play in that New Evangelization and without it the Church's renewal is impossible," he added.
The final point Anderson made was that “Our Lady of Guadalupe is key to our understanding of the New Evangelization in America.”
The New Evangelization refers to the Church-wide effort to reintroduce the Gospel in areas where the practice of the faith has declined or even been largely forgotten.
Today’s media event was held in anticipation of the Dec. 9-12 international congress in Rome called "Ecclesia in America.”
Besides focusing on the New Evangelization, the summit will also commemorate Blessed John Paul II's exhortation ''Ecclesia in America." The gathering will fall on the 15th anniversary of the Synod of Bishops' Special Assembly for America, which was held Nov. 16 to Dec. 12, 1997.
"The churches of North, Central and South America face common problems developed over the last 15 years," Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet observed.
He pointed to youth violence, drug trafficking and drug consumption as matters of "grave concern and debate," and said that the Church is called to make a major contribution to addressing these issues.
But even more importantly, Cardinal Ouellet stressed that the Church must stand strong in areas where the institution of the family is suffering a serious assault.
The international congress will also offer a chance for building “networks of friendship throughout the continent, with a true sense of belonging to the Church,” he added, referring to it as "one of the first major events of the Year of Faith.”
Over 200 participants are expected at the congress, organized by the Knights of Columbus and the Commission for Latin America with the help of the Institute for Guadalupan Studies.
The Ecclesia in America congress will open with Mass at Saint Peter's Basilica and a speech by Pope Benedict, and will include cardinals from Toronto, Boston, Guadalajara, Santo Domingo and Tegucigalpa, as well as bishops and archbishops from across the region.
Religious, supervisors of the Roman Curia and those residing in Pontifical Colleges in Rome from North and South America will also attend.
The event will also include the Rosary, which will be prayed on Dec. 11 at the Vatican Gardens, a devotional event with an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, “Guadalupan” hymns and a scientific research presentation on the St. Juan Diego’s cloak that bears the famous image of Mary.
The conference will conclude with proposals on cooperation between the continents.
The results of Ecclesia in America will then be given to the Roman Curia and the respective bishops’ conferences.