During his weekly general audience, Pope Benedict reflected on his recent apostolic trip to Brazil and insisted that, despite the shadows in the process of announcing the Gospel in the new world, the Evangelization did not destroy but instead ennobled the native cultures.
Speaking before more than 25,000 people on a sunny day, the Pontiff said that his journey to Latin America, where he inaugurated the 5th General Conference of Latin American Bishops, "was primarily an act of praise to God for the 'wonders' worked among the people of Latin America, and for the faith that has animated their lives and culture over more than 500 years."
The Holy Father acknowledged that the "remembrance of a glorious past cannot ignore the shadows that accompanied the work of evangelization on the Latin American continent: ... the suffering and injustices inflicted by the colonizers on the indigenous peoples whose fundamental human rights were often trampled underfoot."
"But the obligatory mention of those unjustifiable crimes, condemned even at the time by missionaries like Bartolomeo de las Casas and theologians such as Francisco de Vitoria, must not prevent us from recognizing with gratitude the marvelous work achieved by divine grace among those peoples over the course of the centuries."
On the Latin American continent, the Holy Father continued, "the Gospel has become the mainstay of a dynamic synthesis that has different aspects in the different nations but everywhere expresses the identity of the Latin American people."
Finally, reflecting on the theme of the Conference, "Disciples and missionaries in Jesus Christ, that in Him our peoples may have life," Pope Benedict said that "the word 'disciple' suggests the idea of formation and of following [a master], the term 'missionary' expresses the fruit of discipleship, in other words bearing witness to and communicating a real experience: the truth known and assimilated."
"Joyfully renewing the will to be disciples of Jesus," he continued "is the fundamental condition for being His missionaries who 'start again from Christ,' to use the words of Pope John Paul II to the entire Church following the Jubilee 2000."
"With my apostolic trip," Pope Benedict concluded, "I wished to exhort people to continue along this path, presenting the unifying perspective of the Encyclical 'Deus caritas est,' a perspective that is inextricably social and theological and that can be summed up in this expression: 'it is love that gives life'."