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Friday, April 8, 2011


VATICAN CITY, 8 APR 2011 (VIS) - This morning Benedict XVI received participants in the plenary of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, dedicated to the theme "Impact of popular piety on the process of evangelisation in Latin America".

  The Pope affirmed that the bishops who met at the Fifth General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean held in 2007 in Aparecida, Brazil, "presented popular piety as a space in which to encounter Jesus Christ, and a form of expression of the faith of the Church. It cannot, therefore, be considered as a secondary aspect of Christian life", and added that "the profound popular religiosity characteristic of the way faith is experienced among the Latin American people ... constitutes "a valuable asset of the Catholic Church in Latin America, and must be protected, promoted and also, where necessary, purified".

  "In pursuing the new evangelisation in Latin America", he continued, "one cannot disregard the many manifestations of popular piety. All these, well channelled and duly accompanied, help bring about a fruitful encounter with God, fostering an intense veneration of the Sacrament, a profound devotion to the Virgin Mary, affection for Peter's Successor and a sense of belonging to the Church ... Consequently, the faith has to be the principal source of popular piety, in order that it not be reduced simply to a form of cultural expression within a given region.  Moreover, it must remain in strict relation with the sacred liturgy, which may not be substituted with any other form of religious expression".

  "Nevertheless, one cannot deny", he remarked, "the existence of certain deviant forms of popular religiosity which, far from promoting active participation in the Church, instead create confusion and can give rise to a superficial religious practice detached from a deep-rooted and inwardly vital faith ... However, to exclude it would be completely mistaken. Through popular piety, faith enters into the heart of men, forming a part of their sentiments, customs, commonly shared ways of feeling and living ... Certainly, popular piety must be continually purified and orientated, but deserves our love, as it truly renders us 'People of God'."

  The Holy Father concluded by thanking the bishops for their "valuable and consistent contributions to the protection, promotion and purification of all that is connected to expressions of popular religiosity in Latin America" and highlighted that, in order to achieve this aim, it would be valuable to continue to promote the continental Mission, "with which the Latin American Episcopate has renewed the process of the new evangelisation following the conference in Aparecida", and which "has given particular space to the pastoral field, which constitutes a privileged method for ensuring that the faith is welcomed into the hearts of the people, touching their deepest sentiments, and is shown to be strong and flourishing through divine charity".
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