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Monday, February 19, 2007


VATICAN CITY, FEB 17, 2007 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican's Consistory Hall, Benedict XVI received pontifical representatives to Latin America, to whom he expressed his appreciation for their "important ecclesial service" which, he said, they carry out "often in the face of no small number of difficulties" due to the distance separating them from their homeland, "frequent travel and, sometimes, social and political tensions."

  Nuncios are called, the Pope said, "to consolidate the bonds of communion between the particular Churches and Peter's Successor." They have "the responsibility to promote ... dialogue and collaboration with civil society in order to achieve the common good." Being a pontifical representative "is a ministry of ecclesial communion and a service to peace and harmony between peoples."

  Recalling how John Paul II had defined Latin America as the "continent of hope," the Holy Father observed that the Fifth General Assembly of the Episcopate of Latin America - which is to be celebrated in Aparecida, Brazil in May and which he is due to attend - "aims to identify the great priorities and to inject fresh energy into the Church's mission at the service of the Latin American people in the real circumstances of the early 21st century." This is all part of "the catholicity which ... has left its mark on the cultural structure that up to now has characterized Latin American identity."

  The nations that make up Latin America "consider themselves as 'sisters' and, indeed, seek to become a community, united in peace and in cultural and economic development. The Church ... is in natural concordance with all legitimate aspirations of peoples to greater harmony and cooperation," to which end "she makes her own special contribution, that of the Gospel."

  Pope Benedict expressed the hope that "in those Latin American countries with Constitutions that limit themselves to 'conceding' freedom of belief and worship, but still fail to 'recognize' religious liberty," reciprocal relations may soon be defined on the basis of "principles of autonomy and of healthy and respectful collaboration."

  The Church's role in Latin America, said the Pope, "continues to be of primary importance, thanks also to the fortuitous blending of the ancient and rich sensibility of the indigenous people" on the one hand, "with Christianity and modern culture" on the other. "The Catholic Church is the institution that enjoys the greatest degree of credit among the people of Latin America" for "the work she undertakes in the fields of education, healthcare and solidarity towards the needy. Help for the poor and the fight against poverty are and continue to be a fundamental priority" and "the Church is also active in mediation efforts which, not infrequently, are asked of her during moments of civil strife."

  The Church today, however, must face "the proselytism of sects and the growing influence of secularism," while families "show signs of giving way under the pressure of lobbies," which have the power to "exercise a negative influence on legislative processes." For this reason it is necessary "to reaffirm that marriage and the family have their foundations in the most intimate nucleus of truth about man and his destiny."

  The Holy Father also turned his attention to other themes due to be discussed during the Aparecida conference, such as "the phenomenon of migration, closely associated with [the question of] the family; the importance of schooling; ... and the need adequately to inform public opinion on the great ethical questions in accordance with the principles of the Church's Magisterium."

  Finally Benedict XVI mentioned ecclesial movements which, he said, represent "a valid resource for the apostolate, but must be helped to remain ever faithful to the Gospel and to the teaching of the Church, also when they work in the social and political spheres. In particular, I feel I must reiterate that it is not for men of the Church to head social and political groupings, but for mature and professionally trained lay people."

  "We ask the Lord, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary," the Pope concluded, "that the fruits ... of the forthcoming general assembly of the Latin American episcopate may be of benefit the entire Church."
AC/LATIN AMERICA/NUNCIOS                    VIS 20070219 (700)

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