(Vatican Radio) Wednesday evening representatives of the Church from North and South America gathered for Mass in St Peter’s basilica to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the conclusion of a three day International Conference on the state of the Church in the Americas today. Emer McCarthy reports Listen:
One of the overriding themes of the conference was inculturated evangelization, particularly in light of the growing Hispanic population north of the Mexican border. Again and again during talks and working groups, representatives of the churches in the US and Canada spoke of the positive impact of immigration on the life of the Church in their local realities, while also calling for a more human understanding of problems connected to immigration.
An issue of concern for Church leaders is that the “wealth of faith” of many Hispanic immigrants is being absorbed into a secular culture. So much so, that by the third or fourth generation, faith is no longer relevant in their lives.
“The reality of the diversity of the Church in the American continent is a wonderful thing” Says Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, Canada.
“I think that the challenge is always when you have people from other countries bringing their own culture and the wealth of their faith, then you have the second generation or the third and fourth and there is the danger that they will be absorbed into a secular culture. Apart from being secular, it is also less rich. It is plastic; it is not something to celebrate. A lot of it is very, very superficial with a distorted anthropology and a distorted sense of the human person. So what a tragedy it is when people come with a very deep and fruitful culture and it gets watered down. But that need not happen. The various communities are working hard to be sure that they can enrich the culture of the local area before it dilutes their spiritual, intellectual and cultural wealth. That’s not an easy thing to do, it’s a constant challenge”.
“I think it’s very true too that when a country or a community depends upon a religion based upon a culture, then it’s not a lasting thing. There have to be deeper roots. When a faith is largely cultural, then it will disappear when it is absorbed by another culture. We really only have a certain amount of time to develop the deep roots and hope that they can be strong enough to resist the secularized nature of their surrounding environment”.
The conference, was co-sponsored by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and the Knights of Columbus, with assistance from the Institute for Guadalupan Studies in Mexico City. Addressing participants, Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson called for an “inculturated evangelization in which our diversity is sanctified and purified in its communion in the Church by orienting us toward Christ and therefore to our brethren as well”.
And he told them, thy need look no further than Our Lady of Guadalupe as a perfect example of this: “Five centuries ago, our hemisphere was given the perfect example of an inculturated evangelization when Mary appeared to Saint Juan Diego. Her message of reconciliation, unity and love brought forth the great evangelization of an entire hemisphere. By her very presence, Our Lady of Guadalupe became the first and great model of Christian unity presented to all peoples and rising above national and ethnic partisanship. As the mestiza Virgin of Tepeyac she called herself the compassionate mother of ―all the people that live together in this land, and also of all the other various lineages of men.
And yet the ―star of the new evangelization is an evangelist like no other. She is not, at the moment of encounter with Juan Diego, working out her own salvation. She is the evangelist par excellence, in part because she enters the world, as it were, from the beatific vision, a state of supreme closeness to God. Her example and continued motherhood of all peoples is a sure path today for the new evangelization”.