Pope Benedict XVI urged Latin American Bishops on Sunday to focus their mission in announcing the faith in Jesus Christ and avoid ideologies that have been proven a failure in history. The Pontiff delivered the longest speech of his Pontificate on Sunday, May 13, during the inaugural session of the 5th Conference of Latin American Bishops that will last until May 31st.
"One can detect a certain weakening of Christian life in society overall and of participation in the life of the Catholic Church, due to secularism, hedonism, indifferentism and proselytism by numerous sects, animist religions and new pseudo-religious phenomena," said the Pope.
"The faithful,” he added, “are looking to this Fifth Conference for renewal and revitalization of their faith in Christ, our one Teacher and Savior, who has revealed to us the unique experience of the infinite love of God the Father for mankind. From this source, new paths and creative pastoral plans will be able to emerge, capable of instilling a firm hope for living out the faith joyfully and responsibly, and thus spreading it in one’s own surroundings."
Speaking in Spanish, the Pope then stressed that "the mature reflection on faith is a light for the path of life and a source of strength for witnessing to Christ. Most valuable tools with which to achieve this are the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its abridged version, the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church."
The Pope's long speech required a pause, in which the Pontifical Hymn was performed by a tenor.
Benedict XVI continued by saying, "The peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean have the right to a full life, proper to the children of God, under conditions that are more human: free from the threat of hunger and from every form of violence." But, he warned, "Both capitalism and Marxism promised to point out the path for the creation of just structures, and they declared that these, once established, would function by themselves."
"And this ideological promise,” he added, “has been proved false. The facts have clearly demonstrated it. The Marxist system, where it found its way into government, not only left a sad heritage of economic and ecological destruction, but also a painful destruction of the human spirit. And we can also see the same thing happening in the West, where the distance between rich and poor is growing constantly, and giving rise to a worrying degradation of personal dignity through drugs, alcohol and deceptive illusions of happiness."
"This political task is not the immediate competence of the Church," the Pontiff explained. "Respect for a healthy secularity — including the pluralism of political opinions — is essential in the authentic Christian tradition."
Pope Benedict then listed key pastoral areas he believes are critical "to bring about the renewal of the Church that has been entrusted to your care in these lands." The Pope's list included: the family “patrimony of humanity,” priests as "first promoters of discipleship,” religious men and women, the lay faithful "jointly responsible for building society according to the criteria of the Gospel,” the youth and vocations.
Pope Benedict concluded with a prayer that stressed: "Remain with us Lord, remain in our homes, so that they may continue to be nests where human life is generously born, where life is welcomed, loved and respected from conception to natural death."
“As I conclude my stay among you,” he told the bishops, “I wish to invoke the protection of the Mother of God and Mother of the Church on you and on the whole of Latin America and the Caribbean. I beseech Our Lady in particular, under the title of Guadalupe, Patroness of America, and under the title of Aparecida, Patroness of Brazil, to accompany you in your exciting and demanding pastoral task. To her I entrust the People of God at this stage of the third Christian millennium. I also ask her to guide the deliberations and reflections of this General Conference and I ask her to bless with copious gifts the beloved peoples of this Continent.”