An official for the Vatican's Latin America commission has warned against a "gray pragmatism and mediocrity" that he believes has infiltrated Christianity in America.

Professor Guzman Carriquiry, secretary for the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, made his remarks on Dec. 8, the first day of the International Congress Ecclesial in America taking place at the Vatican's Synod Hall.

During his speech, Carriquiry noted a growing tendency among Americans to live the faith with a lack of enthusiasm, lukewarmness and ignorance.

"How many Christians today have buried their baptism under a cloak of consumerism and indifference," he said.  

"How many devotions are practiced without an authentic encounter with Christ in the sacraments," he said, lamenting "the abandonment of confession" among local Catholics and "superficiality in participation at Mass."

Despite this, however, Blessed John Paul II's document "Ecclesia in America" has pointed to "the example of numerous saints, heroes, champions of charity and martyrs," he added, "in order to remind us of the path we Christians of America today must walk in the Third Millennium."

Carriquiry underscored that encountering Christ requires a radical renewal of catechesis, "which needs to be presented in all of its grandeur, because there is grave ignorance of our faith, especially in the new generations."

"We are experiencing this crisis of authentic Catholic formation which can be seen in all Christians but especially in those who have the greatest influence in our society."

"For this reason," he said, "we need to completely re-think the Christian formation of the faithful, whether for initiation or re-initiation, in order to achieve a growing and solid formation of mature persons in the faith."  

The fundamental reference for this process, the professor noted, "must be the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which Pope Benedict XVI has put front and center in this Year of Faith."

"Christian families need more hope in this fundamental service of educating in the faith; especially if one considers the vast network of Catholic schools and universities, whose fruits in evangelization are rather meager, especially if one considers the human investment involved."

"I think that it is time to profoundly reevaluate the role of Catholic education in Latin America and North America," he said.

"I hope that this congress will be a providential occasion for a firm and unbreakable affective and effective communion of the churches on the American continent, around the successor of Peter, so that the Church throughout the continent will have a more effective presence in public life," Carriquiry added.

This unity could help to put an end to the prejudice that exists among some in the United States who see Hispanic immigrants as "invaders" who threaten the American experiment, he said. Hispanics should for their part understand themselves as "a providential contribution to the national life with their productivity, as well as with their sense of the supernatural."

"The Catholic Church respects the legitimate laws of each country, but she cannot cease to care for immigrants from a human and charitable point of view," he noted.

"In all of America, the Church only asks and demands the freedom that is rightfully hers. She does not ask for any privilege," Carriquiry said.  

Carriquiry concluded by recalling that half of the world's Catholics live in America, and therefore "it is impossible to ignore the historic role that belongs to this portion of the People of God today and in the future. That was the dream of Blessed John Paul II and it is the vision of Pope Benedict XVI."