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Papal encouragement for Latin American faithful

Catholic World News - December 13, 2011

Pope Benedict XVI encouraged the people of Latin America to maintain their historic commitment to the Catholic faith, as he presided on December 12—the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe—at a special Mass for the region.

The Pontiff made headlines during the afternoon Mass by announcing that he would travel to Cuba and Mexico sometime in the early part of 2012. In his homily, he spoke more broadly about the importance of the faith to the culture of Latin America. He said that the region’s people should recognize that Jesus Christ is “the definitive response to the question about the meaning of life and to the fundamental doubts which, today too afflict, so many men and women of the American continent.”

“It is important for its various peoples to safeguard their rich store of faith and their historical and cultural dynamism, always defending human life from conception to natural end, and promoting peace,” the Pope said. “Likewise, they must protect the authentic nature and mission of the family, and at the same time intensify their widespread educational efforts which will rightly prepare people and make them aware of their abilities so that they may meet their destiny in a worthy and responsible way.”

Recognizing the problems that face the region and the need to confront them, the Holy Father asked the people of Latin America to promote “ever more adequate initiatives and concrete programs aimed at reconciliation and fraternity, increasing solidarity and protecting the environment, increasing efforts to overcome poverty, illiteracy and corruption and eradicating all injustice, violence, criminality, civil unrest, drug trafficking and extortion.”

The Mass in St. Peter’s basilica was scheduled to celebrate the 200th anniversary of independence for many of the countries of the region. (Different countries in Latin America are marking that anniversary on dates stretching from 2008 through 2024.) Pope Benedict remarked: “Peter's Successor could not let this anniversary pass without expressing the Church's joy at the copious gifts which God, in His infinite goodness, has poured upon those beloved nations over the years.”

The Pope concelebrated the Mass with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Secretary of State; Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America; Cardinal Norberto Rivera of Mexico City; and Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis of Aparecida, Brazil. The Mass was celebrated in Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin, with Argentine as well as Roman music.

The congregation in the Vatican basilica was unusually colorful, with many young people dressed in the traditional garb of their countries, and a number of national flags in evidence. L’Osservatore Romano remarked that these were not signs of nationalism, but a confirmation of the deep roots of Catholicism “in that that immense part of the world where today almost half of the faithful in communion with Rome live.”

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