.- On Saturday, in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received the 50 participants in the plenary session of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America which is presided over by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. The theme of the plenary is: "The Family and Christian Education in Latin America." The Holy Father said in his address that the problems facing the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean must be addressed by a new evangelization of faith, nourished by prayer and the divine Word.
"The Church in Latin America," said the Holy Father, "is facing enormous challenges: cultural changes generated by social communications media that influence the thoughts and habits of millions of people; migration, that has so many repercussions on family life and on religious practice in new environments; the re-emergence of questions regarding how peoples must approach their historical memories and their democratic future; globalization, secularism, growing poverty and environmental degradation, especially in big cities, as well as violence and drug trafficking."
For these reasons, Latin America has urgent need "of a new evangelization that stimulates us to enter more deeply into the values of our faith, that they may become the vital sap that forms the identity of those beloved peoples."
"The men and women of South America have great thirst for God," the Pope affirmed. "When a feeling of being orphaned from God the Father arises in the life of communities, the work of bishops, priests and other pastoral care agents becomes vital. They, like Christ, must bear witness that the Father is always provident Love, revealed in His Son.
"When faith is not nourished by prayer and the divine Word," he added, "when sacramental life languishes, then sects and new pseudo-religious groups prosper, causing many Catholics to move away from the Church. As these people receive no answers to their deepest aspirations - answers which could be found in a shared life of faith - situations of spiritual emptiness are also created. ... For this reason it is important to foster a sense of belonging to the Church, where Christians can grow and mature in communion with their fellows."
"For the future of the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean it is important that Christians adopt and intensify the lifestyle of Jesus' disciples," announcing "Christ and His Gospel in all places. ... In a special way, the widespread phenomena of exploitation and injustice, of corruption and violence, are an urgent call for Christians to live their faith coherently and to strive to receive a sound doctrinal and spiritual formation, thus contributing to the construction of a more just, humane and Christian society."
On this subject, the Pope recalled how Christian families are "the main place for the experience and transmission of faith and virtue. The legacy of the faith is safeguarded in the home," where family members "learn the values" that will help them to live as children of God.
Benedict XVI concluded his address by calling upon the Virgin Mary to guide the participants in the forthcoming fifth General Conference of the Latin American Episcopate, that they may find "the most appropriate ways to ensure their peoples have life in Christ, and build, in the so-called 'continent of hope,' a future worthy of all men and women."