Vatican City, 19 July 2012 (VIS) - Benedict XVI has sent a message, through Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., to Bishop Pablo Varela Server, auxiliary of Panama and president of the department for education and culture of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM), for the occasion of the twelfth Meeting on African American Pastoral Care. The meeting is due to come to an end tomorrow, 20 July, in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
The Holy Father encourages the bishops participating in the event "to examine the cultural values, history and traditions of African Americans, with a view to improving the Church's ability to present Jesus Christ as the authentic response to the most profound questions of mankind". In doing this they should allow themselves to be "led by the impulse of the Holy Spirit which came to make all cultures fruitful, 'purifying them, germinating the many seeds which the incarnate Word placed therein, and thus guiding them along the paths of the Gospel". The Pope also invites the bishops and their collaborators "to continue to accompany those beloved peoples, who are often marginalised and ignored".
The theme of the twelfth Meeting on African American Pastoral Care is "African American and Caribbean Pastoral Care and the Aparecida Document. Challenges and Hopes in the Church and in Society". The event is being attended by 250 delegates from Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, Argentina, Panama, Bolivia, Haiti. Dominican Republic, Paraguay, Chile, Uruguay, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala and Jamaica.
The meeting, which opened on 16 July, aims to revitalise the processes whereby African American peoples participate in the Church and in society; to foment unity and the human, social and religious development of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean, and to continue the process of building black Christian communities with a specific identity.
Also in Guayaquil and in the context of the same event, the third Meeting of Bishops with African American Peoples in Latin America and the Caribbean was held from 13 to 15 July. The participants revised and extended the African American pastoral guidelines, the tenth anniversary of the publication of which falls in 2013."Above all", according to a note issued by CELAM, "with the United Nations International Year for People of African Descent in 2011, and the recent call for an International Decade for People of African Descent, the Church in Latin America is seeking to focus particular attention on people of African descent, and their presence and participation in the Church and in society".