Every year the Pontifical Commission for Latin America celebrates Hispanic-American Day, which this year falls on March 1. This year, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re and Archbishop Octavio Ruiz Arenas are calling on Latin Americans to redouble their commitment to evangelization as the continent is undergoing a "crisis of faith."
The Hispanic-American Day celebration is held annually in the dioceses of Spain to celebrate the ties established by the first evangelization between Spain and Latin America. Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re and Archbishop Octavio Ruiz Arenas, respectively president and vice president of the commission, have penned a message to help people live out this year’s theme: "America with Christ. Live the mission."
The theme, the two clergymen write, highlights "two intimately related questions. On the one hand it reminds us of the call to go out into the world to 'make disciples' of Jesus; on the other it reaffirms a conviction that has its foundation in the Master's promise: 'I am with you always, to the end of the age'."
"At the present time Latin America needs to recover and reaffirm the Christian values that lie at the root of its culture and traditions," they say. "There is an urgent necessity to bring the light of the Gospel to public, cultural, economic and political life."
"How," the two prelates ask, "can we respond to these challenges? How can we find an authentic and truly satisfactory solution to an ever-changing reality in which the values propagated by contemporary culture are in ever greater contrast with the reality of the Gospel?"
The solution, the cardinal and archbishop continue, can be found in Pope Benedict’s inaugural address to the Fifth General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean in Aparecida (2007). "He reminded us of a great truth: 'only those who recognize God know reality and are able to respond to it adequately and in a truly human manner'."
"Faced with the crisis of faith in Latin America today," write Cardinal Re and Archbishop Ruiz, "there is a pressing need to make Christ known, and to announce His Word to the men and women of the continent. To this end we must base our missionary efforts, and all of our lives, upon the rock of the Word of God."
With the Pauline Year nearing its final leg, the two prelates evoke the image St. Paul "bearing witness to an individual experience of meeting a person, Jesus Christ. He is the only reality with the power to open the hearts of men and women to contact with the Truth. Hence, it is only united to Christ, only with Christ, that America can live its mission!"
In recent days, the Pope and Latin American bishops have raised their voices calling for a commitment to the Great Continental Mission, which is aimed at bringing Christ to all of South America and the Caribbean. The message for Hispanic-American Day ends with calling people "to shoulder missionary commitment in the Continent of Hope," and encourages priests and religious "to feel in their hearts the ardor of being bearers of the Word 'unto the ends of the earth', and not to be afraid to respond generously to the apostolic mission."