During the week after Easter, members of the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL) held a series of meetings at the Vatican with various officials of the Roman Curia. The effort was intended to start a discussion about Hispanic Catholic influence in the United States and in the U.S. Church.
Reporting on the event in a May 1 newsletter, CALL described itself as the only national lay Catholic Hispanic leadership organization in the country. The organization was founded by Archbishop José Gomez, who was recently appointed co-adjutor archbishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
CALL explained that its “Vatican Forum” involved meetings with seven pontifical councils. Its 24-member delegation met with representatives from the Secretariat of State and from the Pontifical Councils for the Laity, for Justice and Peace, for Immigration and for Communications. They also met with members of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, the Bishops' Synod and the Congregation of Bishops.
Mario Paredes, CALL chairman, said the purpose of the meetings was “to bring the Hispanic reality to the table in Rome.”
According to the group, there are an estimated 47 million Hispanics in the U.S. and another 12 million who are undocumented. Thirty-five percent of Catholics in the U.S. are of Latino heritage.
Board members Dr. Christine Johnson and Tom Espinoza served as spokespersons for the delegation. During their meetings Johnson presented statistics and demographic presentations about the growing Latino influence in the U.S., its economy, and the Catholic Church.
Espinoza discussed how the Church should translate that data into a relevant pastoral response including Church leadership appointments.
The delegation also met with the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Dr. Miguel Diaz. He shared his perspectives as a theologian and as a U.S. government representative. After the meeting, CALL hosted a special dinner in honor of the Ambassador, with invited members of the Roman Curia in attendance.
During their visit the delegation stayed at the Cardinals’ House of the Conclave, known as Domus Sanctae Marthae (St. Martha’s House), which is immediately adjacent to St. Peter’s Basilica.
CALL said its message for the meetings included an affirmation of support for the Church and her bishops. The delegation did not meet with Pope Benedict XVI, but it delivered a personal message to him of gratitude and support.
“The visit to the Worldwide Headquarters of the Catholic Church has been a rewarding spiritual experience,” Paredes commented. “With our high level of contact and dialogues, we have been able to learn first-hand the work that the Church is doing around the world, and specifically, in the United States.”
Vatican officials reportedly reacted to the meetings by saying they were encouraged and impressed that a lay group would travel to Rome to deliver their message on behalf of the Catholic Church in the U.S. They complimented the group for “taking ownership” of the life of the Church, in service to the realization that the laity are the Church.
Officials also encouraged members of the CALL delegation to contact their respective bishops to express their support and fidelity.
CALL claimed the meetings were “historic” on several levels, noting that the leadership of important Vatican dicasteries traditionally only meets with bishops.
Archbishop Gomez, who serves as CALL’s episcopal moderator, had planned to join the group at the Vatican, but the event conflicted with the announcement of his appointment to Los Angeles.