.- During a March 25 evening prayer service at the cathedral in León, Mexico, Pope Benedict XVI called on Latin American and Carribean bishops to plant the “seed of hope” through the Church's work in the regions.
“Certainly your dioceses face a number of challenges and difficulties at the present moment,” the Pope acknowledged.
“Yet, in the sure knowledge that the Lord is risen, we are able to move forward confidently, in the conviction that evil does not have the last word in human history, and that God is able to open up new horizons to a hope that does not disappoint.”
“You are not alone amid your trials or in your successes in the work of evangelization,” the Pope told the Latin American and Carribean bishops, promising them that “all of us are one in sufferings and in consolation.”
“Know that you can count on a special place in the prayers of the one who has received from Christ the charge of confirming his brethren in faith,” the Pope said, referring to his role as the Successor of St. Peter.
“He now encourages you in your mission of making our Lord Jesus Christ ever better known, loved and followed in these lands, and he urges you not to let yourselves be intimidated by obstacles along the way.”
In his address, delivered during the celebration of Vespers, Pope noted the historic contributions of the Church to Latin American and Carribean life, particularly due to the labors of “outstanding and self-sacrificing missionaries who proclaimed it boldly and wisely.”
“They gave their all for Christ, demonstrating that in him men and women encounter the truth of their being and the strength needed both to live fully and to build a truly humane society.”
Looking forward to the “Year of Faith” that begins in the fall of 2012, Pope Benedict said its initiatives “must be aimed at guiding men and women to Christ; his grace will enable them to cast off the bonds of sin and slavery, and to progress along the path of authentic and responsible freedom.”
The bishops also received the Pope's charge to “show great concern for your seminarians”, and remain “close to your priests,” who “must never lack the understanding and encouragement of their bishop, nor, if necessary, his paternal admonition in response to improper attitudes.”
He also asked them to value and accompany the diverse forms of consecrated life, and give “greater attention” to “the members of the lay faithful most engaged in the fields of catechesis, liturgical animation, charitable activity and social commitment.”
“In all of this, it is particularly important for pastors to ensure that a spirit of communion reigns among priests, religious and the lay faithful, and that sterile divisions, criticism and unhealthy mistrust are avoided,” he affirmed.
The Pope invited the bishops to be “vigilant in proclaiming day and night the glory of God, which is the life of mankind.”
“Stand beside those who are marginalized as the result of force, power or a prosperity which is blind to the poorest of the poor,” he urged them, noting that the Church “cannot separate the praise of God from service to others.”
“The one God, our Father and creator, has made us brothers and sisters: to be human is to be a brother and guardian to our neighbor.”
“Along this path, in union with the whole human family, the Church must relive and make present what Jesus was: the 'Good Samaritan' who came from afar, entered our human history, lifted us up and sought to heal us.”
Pope Benedict acknowledged that the Church in Latin America has often shared Christ's sufferings. Now, he said, it “must continue to be a seed of hope enabling the world to see how the fruits of the resurrection have come to enrich these lands.”
He asked that the Virgin Mary, invoked as “Our Lady of Light,” would “dispel the darkness of our world and illumine our path.”
With God's grace, the Pope said, “we can confirm the faith of the people of Latin America amid their struggles and aspirations, with integrity, valor and firm faith in the one who can do all things and loves all men and women to the fullest.”