America Has Been Touched to The Heart by the Divine Mercy Revealed in Our Lady of Guadalupe
Homily of Cardinal Marc Ouellet
Opening Mass for the International Congress on Ecclesia in America
St. Peter's Basilica

Cardinal Oullet
December 10, 2012

Dear friends, let us welcome this promise of God that resonates in the heart of Advent and already fills us with hope and joy. We welcome it joyfully in the faith of Peter and of Mary, at the center of Catholicity, while bringing here the intentions of America and its response to the appeal of Blessed Pope John Paul II:

On the threshold of the third Christian millennium and at a time when many walls and ideological barriers have fallen, the Church feels absolutely duty-bound to bring into still deeper spiritual union the peoples who compose this great continent and also, prompted by the religious mission which is proper to the Church, to stir among these peoples a spirit of solidarity.[1]

Motivated by this prophetic vision of Blessed John Paul II and engaged in its realization, we are gathered here, bishops, priests, religious and laity to take stock of the implementation of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America. I am very happy to greet you all and to thank you warmly for having accepted the invitation of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, supported generously by the Knights of Columbus, and spending a few days of this Advent 2012 looking for a deeper communion and solidarity among our particular Churches in America.

The Synod of 1999 marked a milestone in reconciliation and effective collaboration between our dioceses of North America and South America. We are pleased to give thanks to God here at St. Peter's in Rome and invoke the Holy Spirit together with Our Lady of Guadalupe and Saint Juan Diego on another stage of new evangelization of the great continent that is home to more than half of the world's Catholics.

The Word of God for this second Sunday of Advent throws light on the spirit and attitudes that should stimulate us in these days of reflection and hope. Let us listen to the prophet Baruch:

Rise up, Jerusalem! Stand upon the heights; look to the east and see your children gathered from east to west at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God (Bar 5:5).

The Word of God who unites us is Christ the Lord, the Desired of the nations. It is He who rises from the East as the rising sun, He whom America met and embraced 500 years ago, thanks to the maternal tenderness of Mary who deigned to manifest herself to Juan Diego with the Indian features of Our ​​Lady of Guadalupe. Touched to the heart by the divine mercy revealed in these features, from that moment on, America marches forward in the hope of the God who comes in Christ, in the midst of the hopes and challenges of the present time.

For God has commanded that every lofty mountain and the age-old hills be made low, that the valleys be filled to make level ground, that Israel may advance securely in the glory of God (Bar 5:7).

God decided to save his people and to lead them along smoothed paths toward the glory of his Kingdom. This is why Christ pitched his tent in America, especially among the poor, and He has established his home of glory among those who share his love. His great arms extended on the heights of the Cubilete (Leon, Mexico) and the Corcovado (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) beckon us to remain faithful to the courage of the missionaries, to the perseverance of the saints and to the blood of martyrs who have made ​​America a sacred land.

Let us rejoice in His divine heart by welcoming in our turn the message of John the Baptist: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low” (Lk 3:4-5). The Church in America needs to hear again the call of the Synod of 1999, which has been revitalized for the universal Church by the recent Synod on the new evangelization, a call to conversion, communion and solidarity. There has never been a living Church without a permanent conversion of its members to the Gospel of Jesus Christ; there cannot be a living Church without a deep and frequent communion to the Body of Christ, the gushing and crystalline source of its unity; there will not be a radiant and missionary Church in America without a solidarity that is more concrete and creative between the North and the South of the continent.

We are aware of these challenges, we want to approach them with the audacity of children of God who rely on His grace. This is why our presence in this basilica is foremost an act of faith in the spirit of the Year of Faith; it is also a plea to the Holy Spirit for the necessary conversion of our Churches to communion and solidarity among all.

The words of St. Paul to the Philippians fill us with hope: “The [God] who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6).

Dear friends, let us welcome this word of comfort and hope that will be confirmed soon by our Holy Father Benedict XVI, Successor of Peter and guarantor of the unity of the whole Church. Let us open our hearts as God's children to the blessing of the Holy Father. The greatest grace of unity and solidarity between our Churches, we must draw from the charism of unity of the successor of Peter. Fifteen years ago it was he, in the person of Blessed John Paul II, who traced the road map for America to unite. Today, once again it is he, in the person of His Holiness Benedict XVI, who will confirm our momentum and initiatives of the new evangelization of the American continent. Let us thank God for the unity of the universal Church that lives within and protects the communion and solidarity of all the particular Churches.

This congress is placed especially under the patronage of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of the Americas, Star of the New Evangelization. As her beloved children, we humbly entrust to her our needs and our projects of the new evangelization, with the certainty that she will lead us safely to the joy of her Son, who was promised to the poor. Thus, says St. Paul, in righteousness, you will be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. Amen!

Marc Cardinal Ouellet

Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops

[1] John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America on the encounter with the living Christ, the path of conversion, communion and solidarity in America, January 22, 1999, n. 5. Cf. Inaugural address on the occasion of the 4th General Conference of the Latin American Episcopate (Santo Domingo, October 12, 1992), n. 17: AAS 85 (1993), pp. 820-821; La Documentation Catholique, n. 89, 1992, p. 1028.

A renewed missionary spirit and zealous generosity ... will be an irreplaceable contribution to the universal Church
Address of H.H. Benedict XVI to Participants in Ecclesia in America Congress
H.H. Benedict XVI
December 9, 2012

Lord Cardinals,

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,

Esteemed Knights of Columbus,

I am most grateful for the words of the Lord Cardinal Marc Ouellet, President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, and I am delighted that, together with the Knights of Columbus, you wished to consider and project further the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America of Blessed John Paul II, which brings together the contributions of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for America.I cordially greet the Lord Cardinals, the Bishops, priests and consecrated persons, as well as the numerous laymen who have come to participate in this important initiative. Your faces bring to my mind and heart again the beatings of the American Continent, so present in the Pope’s prayer, and whose devotion to the Apostolic See I have gratifyingly experienced, not only during my pastoral visits to some of its countries, but every time that I meet here with pastors and faithful of those beloved lands.

My Venerable Predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, had the farsighted intuition to enhance relations of cooperation between the particular Churches of the whole of America, of the North, of the Center and of the South and, at the same time, to arouse greater solidarity between its nations. Today such resolutions merit being taken up again so that Christ’s redeeming message is put into practice with greater earnestness and produces abundant fruits of holiness and ecclesial renewal.

The theme that guided the reflections of that Synodal Assembly can also serve as inspiration for the works of these days: “The encounter with Jesus Christ alive, way for conversion, communion and solidarity in America.” In fact, the love of the Lord Jesus and the power of his grace must be rooted ever more intensely in the heart of the persons, families and Christian communities of your nations, so that the latter will advance with dynamism on the paths of concord and just progress. That is why, it is a gift of Providence that your Congress takes place after the beginning of the Year of Faith and after the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops dedicated to the New Evangelization, as your deliberations will contribute appreciably to the arduous and imperative task to make Christ’s Gospel resonate with clarity and audacity.

The mentioned Apostolic Exhortation already pointed out the challenges and difficulties that at this hour continue to be present with singular and complex characteristics. In fact, secularism and different religious groups are spreading to all latitudes, giving way to numerous problems. Education and the promotion of a pro-life culture is a fundamental urgency given the diffusion of a mentality that attempts against the dignity of the person and does not favor or protect the institution of marriage and the family. How can we not be concerned about the painful situations of emigration, up-rootedness and violence, especially those caused by organized crime, drug trafficking, corruption and the arms trade? And what to say of the lacerating inequalities and the pockets of poverty caused by questionable economic, political and social measures?

All these important questions require careful study. Yet in addition to their technical evaluation, the Catholic Church is convinced that the light for an adequate solution can only come from encounter with the living Christ, which gives rise to attitudes and ways of acting based on love and truth. This is the decisive force which will transform the American continent.

Dear friends, the love of Christ impels us to devote ourselves without reserve to proclaiming his Name throughout America, bringing it freely and enthusiastically to the hearts of all its inhabitants. There is no more rewarding or beneficial work than this. There is no greater service that we can provide to our brothers and sisters. They are thirsting for God. For this reason, we ought to take up this commitment with conviction and joyful dedication, encouraging priests, deacons, consecrated men and women and pastoral agents to purify and strengthen their interior lives ever more fully through a sincere relationship with the Lord and a worthy and frequent reception of the sacraments. This will be encouraged by suitable catechesis and a correct and ongoing doctrinal formation marked by complete fidelity to the word of God and the Church’s magisterium and aimed at offering a response to the deepest questions and aspirations of the human heart. The witness of your faith will thus be more eloquent and incisive, and you will grow in unity in the fulfillment of your apostolate. A renewed missionary spirit and zealous generosity in your commitment will be an irreplaceable contribution to what the universal Church expects and needs from the Church in America.

As a model of openness to God’s grace and of perfect concern for others, there shines forth on your continent the figure of Mary Most Holy, Star of the New Evangelization, invoked throughout America under the glorious title of Our Lady of Guadalupe. As I commend this Congress to her maternal and loving protection, I impart to you, the organizers and participants, my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of abundant divine graces.

Ecclesia in America is the Blueprint for the New Evangelization
Address of Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, to Participants in the Ecclesia in America Congress
Carl Anderson
December 11, 2012

A Question of Paths

On December 12, 1531, the last day of the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe, when St. Juan Diego took a different path in order to find a priest for his dying uncle, Our Lady met him on his detour and posed these questions: “My youngest son, what is going on? Where are you going? Where are you headed?”

Today, during this Congress, we ask the very same questions: What is going on? Where are we going? Where are we headed?

Like New Spain in the early 16thcentury, we too face in many ways a great clash of civilizations—in our time made more troubling by the accelerating process of globalization.

From Chile to Canada, vast majorities still consider themselves Christian. And yet…the countries and cultures built upon Christian faith show great failures of charity, dignity and truth—failures inconsistent with being disciples of the God who is Love. There is simultaneously both a familiarity with Christ and an ignorance of Christ, which in many places has resulted in a mischaracterization of Christ and of the mission of the Church.

The land we are called to evangelize is in an important sense new: it is neither pre-Christian nor Christian—it is for the first time in history a land facing a horizon that is post-Christian.

The people who once knew Christ and followed him on both a personal and a cultural level now in too many ways fail to recognize him, either in the face of his Church or in the face of the poor.

Where are we going?

As we reflect on the situation of the Church in America, something resonates with us in Juan Diego’s reply to Our Lady: “Though it grieves me, though I will cause anguish toyour face and your heart, I must tell you…that one of your servants…is very ill. A terrible sickness has taken hold of him; he will surely die from it soon.”

Juan Diego spoke of the plague killing his uncle. We confront another illness—one just as deadly. And like Juan Diego, it is the care for the human family which brings us here today. Her intervention can come none too soon. The wisdom of Ecclesia in America is apparent.

Ecclesia in America

Ecclesia in America is the blueprint for the new evangelization.

Speaking of “America” rather than “the Americas”, the apostolic exhortation proposes a unified path for our entire hemisphere—not one continent or the other, not one country or the other, but all as a unity. This is also in a sense countercultural and even radical. Despite increased globalization, no other institution lays out a single vision of the entire hemisphere to overcome the greatly-varied problems in each country.

While aware of and eager to rectify the many illnesses in America, the apostolic exhortation communicates not a political vision but an ecclesial one; not a vision of systems but a vision of humanity encountering Christ. In other words, it presents a vision of an “enculturated” 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.

Following Christ, who described his sovereign role as “testifying to the Truth”, Ecclesia in America correctly focuses Catholic evangelization on what matters most:

“In accepting this mission [of the new evangelization], everyone should keep in mind that the vital core of the new evangelization must be a clear and unequivocal proclamation of the person of Jesus Christ, that is, the preaching of his name, his teaching, his life, his promises and the Kingdom which he has gained for us by his Paschal Mystery.”

The truth communicated in the new evangelization does not change, only how it is communicated to people of America. Recently, our Holy Father presented how we should consider the “content” of the new evangelization.

“In our continuing catechesis for the Year of Faith, we now consider the question of how we are to speak about God to our contemporaries, communicating the Christian faith as a response to the deepest longings of the human heart. This means bringing the God of Jesus Christ to the men and women of our time. It means bearing quiet and humble witness each day to the core of the Gospel message. This is the Good News of the God who is Love, who has drawn near to us in Jesus Christ even to the Cross, and who in the Resurrection brings us the hope and promise of eternal life. Jesus gave us an example: by his loving concern for people’s questions, struggles and needs, he led them to the Father. In the task of bringing God to our contemporaries, families play a privileged role, for in them the life of faith is lived daily in joy, dialogue, forgiveness and love.

Five centuries ago, our hemisphere was given the perfect example of an enculturated 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.

Encountering Christ in the Americas: Culture of War, Culture of Death.

One similarity between the culture Our Lady of Guadalupe entered, and our culture today, is the expectation of war.

Pope Benedict reminded the bishops of the United States earlier this year, “At the heart of every culture, whether perceived or not, is a consensus about the nature of reality and the moral good, and thus about the conditions for human flourishing.”[1]

The heart of the Mesoamerican culture at the time of the apparitions included an expectation of war and a distorted need for sacrifice. Aztec culture constantly referred back to desolation: “War and Death set the tone for every lecture and ceremony that would accompany the Indigenous all his life.”[2] To be literal, their perception of reality, articulated through their religion, made war, death and sacrifice conditions for human flourishing. In this worldview the freedom to live was enabled only by war and death. The expectation of war and the necessity of death for some was the daily prerequisite for the human flourishing of Aztec culture.

And yet today—despite having abandoned the assumptions of Aztec religion long ago—contemporary culture remains influenced by similar distortions regarding the prerequisites of human flourishing. Do we not encounter in society and in certain public policies an unspoken assumption that certain deaths are conditions for human flourishing?

Do we not see in our contemporary culture, a culture which in the words of Evangelium Vitae, “it is possible to speak in a certain sense of a war of the powerful against the weak?” Do we not also see with Blessed John Paul II “a structure of sin” in a culture that concludes that “a life which would require greater acceptance, love and care is considered useless, or held to be an intolerable burden, and is therefore rejected in one way or another. And that finds that “A person who, because of illness, handicap or more simply, just by existing, compromises the well-being or life-style of those who are more favored tends to be looked upon as an enemy to be resisted or eliminated.”[3]

This is the very definition of a culture of death and Blessed John Paul II did not hesitate to tell us so.[4] The encounter with this culture is fundamental to the new evangelization and it is fundamental to the future of the Christianity in our hemisphere.

And yet – in Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict reminds us that the seed of hope still exists in the permanent, universal vocation shared by all people. He said: “All people feel the interior impulse to love authentically: love and truth never abandon them completely, because these are the vocation planted by God in the heart and mind of every human person.” And because of this it is possible for us to be “co-workers” with Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI in speaking about the possibility of a new culture—a culture which they call “a civilization of love” and which Blessed John Paul II recognized in Ecclesia in America is brought about by those who are “capable of loving with God’s own love.”[5]

The civilization of love cannot be imposed from above or from outside of a particular historical culture. This is the starting point for an authentic, enculturated new evangelization. And it is precisely why we need to turn our gaze always to Our Lady of Guadalupe—Star of the New Evangelization. And this is also why we may also see Our Lady of Guadalupe under another title as well—Mother of the Civilization of Love.

Mary of Guadalupe as model for all Christians

At Puebla in 1979 Blessed John Paul II described the three pillars necessary for “the present and the future of evangelization.” These three pillars are “the truth about Jesus the Savior”; “the truth about the Church”; and “the truth about man and his dignity.”[6] But if we want to return to those three truths, Pope Benedict has noted in the past, “it is necessary to go back to Mary.”

It seems imperative then to deepen our reflection of why we call Mary under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe “the star of the new evangelization.” Five hundred years ago, Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to the indigenous American peoples as the perfectly inculturated proclamation of the Gospel. The young woman who received the Word in silence and allowed him to bear fruit in her was a far more effective evangelizer than those preachers who had attempted to convert a vast new continent.

What we need now, in this critical moment in history, is a radical return to the Source, who is the Lord, and this return cannot take place without something akin to what happened at the earliest beginnings of the proclamation of the Word and to what Our Lady of Guadalupe points.

In the many iconic representations of Pentecost, we see the Church as it was, is, and must continually become. We see the Church in its theological reality—the apostles are gathered around the Mother of God, awaiting the gift of the Spirit who will allow the Word of God to be perfectly inculturated not only in one tongue or on one continent, but in all cultures and for peoples of the earth.

Mary, the holy and immaculate core of the believing Church, teaches us what it means to receive the Word of God, to contemplate him, and to allow him to bear fruit in our lives. In her, we see what it means to beg for and to receive the “intelligent,” transforming and renewing fire that in the words of our Holy Father allows us to become “light in God.”

Mary is the “star of the new evangelization” because she is the contemplative, loving, compassionate, ever faithful presence that allowed the Church to come into being not as a work of man, but as the gift of the God who is Love.

Mary leads to Christ, not herself. Blessed John Paul II described the Wedding at Cana: “the Mother of Christ presents herself as the spokeswoman of her Son’s will, pointing out those things which must be done so that the salvific power of the Messiah may be manifested.” In this she walks in the spirit of the Jewish prophets, as it were, in that she, like John the Baptist, drew souls to “prepare the way of the Lord, [and to] make straight his paths.”

This clarity of purpose—to proclaim the person of Jesus Christ—is apparent again in Our Lady in the Guadalupan apparition. Her initial request to St. Juan Diego is to build a church where she may show her son to all people. She says, according to the Nican Mopohua:

“I want very much that they build my sacred little house here, in which I will show Him, I will exalt Him on making Him manifest, I will give Him to all people in all my personal love, Him that is my compassionate gaze, Him that is my help, him that is my salvation.”

Authentic Inculturated Evangelization.

In Our Lady of Guadalupe, the native peoples saw a true reflection of themselves and at the same time a perfect expression of a new inculturation of the Christian faith. She communicated eternal, universal truths in the language and custom of the native peoples. Her words, as recorded in the Nican Mopohua, show also how she affirmed the seeds of truth in those elements of their culture and history: their appreciation for truth, their belief in a creator and in a divine master of heaven and earth. She also – in a move which overturns the recent tendencies to speak only of the “historical Christ” – abandoned her own historical identity; she assumed the form of the mestiza, a child of the inhabitants, and she spoke in their Nahuatl language with their rich, varied, formal speech.

The new evangelization, like all evangelization, must be enculturated.

Living in the world but not of the world” is an accurate guide to true inculturation. It includes recognizing the truth in cultures, as well as differentiating between truth and the language in which the truth is communicated. That is:inculturation of communication and tradition, not a conflation of moral values.

It is worthwhile noting that Blessed John Paul II saw the importance of non-essential religious experiences in communicating and nourishing the faith of American Catholics. He called popular piety “a mode of inculturation of the Catholic faith.” And he urged that, “prudently considered, it too can provide valid cues for a more complete inculturation of the gospel.”

An enculturated evangelization speaks to the individual and brings out the relevance that as Pope John Paul said in Ecclesia in America, “Jesus Christ is … the definitive answer to the question of the meaning of life, and to those fundamental questions which still trouble so many men and women on the American continent.”

Here I would mention two specific areas: the role of the laity and charitable witness.

The Role of the Laity.

Reading the signs of life within the Church, I think we can all recognize that our hemisphere is at a pivotal moment in history. Much like the internal reform of the 13thcentury taken up especially by the Franciscans and Dominicans, whose way of life constituted a return to evangelical principles, today Catholics find themselves called to evangelization, which in itself constitutes a type of reform of how Catholics live.

This evangelization recognizes the vital contribution of the laity. This does not bestow on the laity a new mission, but rather awakens the laity to the mission of Baptism – the vocation of holiness and the vocation to evangelize.

It significant that Juan Diego and his uncle were laymen. Their dedication to the faith is apparent in Juan Diego going often to the far away chapel for instruction, as well as his insistence on putting the salvation of his dying uncle first.

The laity also had a greater role in evangelization after the apparitions of Our Lady. In spreading word of the apparition and of the faith which gave such a compassionate encounter with God, lay men and women helped account for the conversion of millions.

In our day, a central aspect of the work of the laity is their role as stewards of the Christian family and therefore of the domestic Church.

Because of the central important of the family not only to its individual members but also to society and culture, the new evangelization must contain at its core the recovery of a sacramental understanding of Christian marriage. If the new evangelization is to be an incarnate proclamation of the beauty of God, who is communion, and of the Church who is the sacrament of this communion, it cannot but have at its center the domestic church. This is so not only because the family is the “model place” where the faith is transmitted to new generations, or where Christian values are lived.

Our faith teaches us that God is a unity in communion, a Trinity, that he is love. God made an irrevocable gift of himself to us in his Son Jesus Christ, who is his covenant with his creation. And because man is made in the image of God, he “is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless” if he does not encounter this love.[7]

Millions of people who have yet to encounter God’s love need the Christian family to be an icon of the God who is communion. They need to see all the elements of human life finding fulfillment in the Son of God made man. They need to see families that are truly human communities, which can thus point their unbelieving brothers and sisters to the beauty of the God who is love.

This is why Blessed John Paul II taught us that the family is essentially missionary. Its mission, which flows from its being, precedes any external activities of evangelization to which Christian families may commit themselves. Every such activity bears authentic, evangelical fruit when it flows from the foundational mission that places the family founded on sacramental marriage at the heart of the mission of the Church.

In the words of Blessed John Paul II, “the family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love” – the love that is a reflection of the Trinitarian communion and that shares in “God’s love for humanity and the love of Christ the Lord for the Church His bride.”[8] Only when the Christian family is strengthened in this its most basic mission can take its place at the heart of the Church’s task of evangelization.

We cannot, in carrying forward the mission of the new evangelization, proclaim “the truth about man and his dignity” unless we proclaim with courage and conviction the truth about marriage and family.

From what has just been said it is obvious that chief among these building blocks for the new evangelization is the Second Vatican Council’s universal call to holiness.[9] This call is truly universal, embracing all states of life and all peoples of the earth. It seems to me necessary to stress both this call of God and our response to it as fundamental to the New Evangelization[10] and in this we see an extraordinary example in the life of St. Juan Diego.

In the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe and in the life of St. Juan Diego it is manifest that this call for a new assimilation and proclamation of the Gospel embraces the Church as a whole, and every people and nation in which she is present.

What is needed is not simply new pastoral initiatives to those who no longer embrace Christianity– though such outreach is of course imperative. The new evangelization must be broader and also more positive in scope. While it may be prompted by, it cannot simply be determined by the crisis of our age.

This renewed impulse of evangelization involves a fundamental reappropriation of our faith by the whole Church, and a thoroughly incarnate proclamation of it to the men and women of our time. It requires what we might describe as a “radical” return to the Source—a renewed living out of the fullness of the faith. In other words, what is called for is what we see in the life of St. Juan Diego: a courageous witness of holiness. It is in this way that as Blessed John Paul II stated in Christifedeles Laici, the laity have an “essential and irreplaceable role” in the work of the new evangelization.[11]

The holiness of lives formed and strengthened by the sacraments and lived in total faithfulness to the Church and in commitment to Jesus Christ is the only way to reconstitute a Catholic identity. It is the only way for the Church to bear credible witness, in her institutions and in each of her members, to a world mortally hungry for the presence of the living God.

Charity that evangelizes.

Finally, the method that speaks strongest of Christ is love, in all its forms, beginning with the family and extending to the more general, but nevertheless urgent, concern for those who are poor and who suffer.

The Western Hemisphere is fertile ground for the seed of charity. All of our countries are experiencing some degree of turmoil. Christ himself explained: the poor we will have until the end of the world, and their many types of poverty we recognize. There is also the silent turmoil of complacent obliviousness to others, of obsession with materialism, which blind hearts from seeing what the God of Jesus Christ has revealed: namely, “our grandeur as persons redeemed by love and called, in the Church, to renew the city of man, so that it can become the city of God.” Only by building a civilization of love can Catholics help build the authentic solidarity described in Ecclesia in America.

Our Lady of Guadalupe’s vision of the future chapel communicates the charitable warmth of the Church—a charitable warmth which everyone in the Church is called to extend. As the Holy Father wrote in Deus Caritas Est, “The Church is God’s family in the world. In this family no one ought to go without the necessities of life.” And at the same time we are reminded that “caritas-agape extends beyond the frontiers of the Church.”[12]

More than anything, life without God or life without an authentic understanding of God, finds suffering to be the question without an answer. The new evangelization needs a renewed experience of sacrifice, bound up in an understanding of redemptive suffering as well as a solidarity of the heart with those who suffer. In this way too, the new evangelization calls us to “a charity that evangelizes.”[13]

Christ said the world would know we are Christian by the way we love one another. We should be prepared to let charity be our measure of the new evangelization. In the first chapter of Ecclesia in America, Blessed John Paul II recalled the words of his predecessor at the close of the Second Vatican Council: “on the face of every human being, especially when marked by tears and sufferings, we can and must see the face of Christ.”[14] This is the inescapable prerequisite for a new evangelization. But perhaps we may be permitted to add that the new evangelization calls us to a further realization: that every human being especially when marked by tears and suffering, must be able to see the caring face of Christ in those he has called to follow him.

In closing, permit me one further observation concerning the new evangelization in a time of globalization. The clash of civilizations that occurred on the American continent between the Spanish and the Native Americans in some ways highlighted the worst aspects of each culture. The Spanish witnessed the brutal human sacrifices of the Aztecs, while the Aztecs witnessed some of the Spanish authorities behaving brutally toward them, and even threatening Bishop Zumarraga. It was into this context of cultural conflict that our Lady of Guadalupe appeared as a mestiza – the embodiment of both cultures, and as an appeal to what was best in both.

This was what Pope John Paul II called in Ecclesia in America “a perfectly inculturated evangelization.” (11) It was the first step toward bringing together two different cultures under the mantle of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Gospel of her son, Jesus Christ. Not only did Our Lady of Guadalupe appear as a mixture of both races, but the man she appeared to, Juan Diego was a humble native. Yet it was not enough that she appeared to him, or even that she left her image. For the work of evangelization to take root in America required that Juan Diego – a Native Mexican – work with Bishop Zumarraga – a Spaniard to spread her message of love and reconciliation.

In one way, it is not surprising that Our Lady of Guadalupe would bring together cultures while bringing people to her son. From the first days of Christianity, and even during Christ’s life, it was clear that his message of salvation was not only for one group, but for all who were open to it. Wherever they may have come from originally, those early Christians found a unity in Christ that transcended all cultural differences. And Our Lady of Guadalupe has helped her son to do the same in America.

As we work for a New Evangelization, this lesson is important. We cannot approach another culture from a relativistic point of view. We cannot say every aspect of every culture is equally good. Nor should we be dismissive of cultures different form our own or see differences as necessarily negative. In other words, care must be taken to avoid what Pope Benedict laid out as two dangers arising from the “increased commercialization of cultural exchange”: 1) cultural eclecticism, and 2) cultural leveling.

In cultural ecleticism, cultural groups "are simply placed alongside one another and viewed as substantially equivalent and interchangeable" often with the effect that they remain separate with neither authentic dialogue nor integration. It sees cultures relativistically and therefore eliminates the need to learn from one another, to listen to the particular song of truth expressed in a culture. The second danger, cultural leveling, "indiscriminately accepts types of conduct and life-styles, losing sight of the profound significance of the culture...and traditions of different peoples, by which the individual defines himself in relation to life's fundamental questions."

The result is often that one culture is subsumed by another, becoming deaf to one's history and being silent in cultural dialogue. Pope Benedict concludes that “What eclecticism and cultural leveling have in common is the separation of culture from human nature. Thus, cultures can no longer define themselves within a nature that transcends them[63], and man ends up being reduced to a mere cultural statistic. When this happens, humanity runs new risks of enslavement and manipulation.”

As people of faith, we must chart a different course. We must take the opportunity to find cultural unity through a shared religious identity and value system. The truth the Church has to offer the world does not hinder cultural development, it fulfills it. But in preaching to cultures that either don’t know Christ or have forgotten him, Juan Diego’s witness is very important. In a cultural context where the Church is seen as preaching from “outside” the culture, the witness of the laity and of all Christians inside the culture is critical. This was the witness of the first Christians that sparked an interest in Christianity in this very city in what we might call the first wave of evangelization. This is the model that converted the entire American continent. And this is the model for the New Evangelization as well, not only in America, but throughout the world.

Ecclesia in America closes with words which aptly embody the meaning of our meeting today: “Teach us to love your Mother, Mary, as you loved her. Give us strength to proclaim your word with courage in the work of the new evangelization so that the world may know new hope. Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!”

[1] Benedict XVI, Address to the Bishops of the United States of America on their “Ad Limina” Visit, January 19, 2012.

[2] Pg. 56

[3] John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, no. 12 (1995).

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ecclesia in America, no. 10.

[6] John Paul II, Address to Third General Conference of Latin American Episcopate, 28 January 1979.

[7] John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis, no. 10 (1979).

[8] John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, no. 17 (1981).

[9] Vatican Council II, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, ch. 5 (1962).

[10] Ecclesia in America, no. 33.

[11] John Paul II, Christifedeles Laici, no. 7 (1988).

[12] Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est no. 25(b) (2005).

[13] John Paul II, Ecclesia in Europa, no. 33 (2003).

[14] Ecclesia in America, no 12.

Mary's Way:
"May the Baptized of America thus Become Missionary Disciples in the Power of the Spirit"

Homily of Cardinal Marc Ouellet
Closing Mass for the International Congress on Ecclesia in America
St. Peter's Basilica
Cardinal Oullet

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
December 12, 2012

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?”

Dear Friends,

The day that Mary of Nazareth received the announcement of the angel Gabriel and consented to her divine maternity, the history of the world turned to the abyss of divine grace, while it continued to unfold as a daily series of small and great events.

The Gospel tells us that Mary went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, to visit her cousin Elizabeth who, as she knew by revelation, was expecting a son. From the first moment of their meeting, the Holy Spirit filled the Mothers and babes with joy. Elizabeth exclaimed “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord! Mary responded with her canticle of thanksgiving which has become the daily canticle of faith of the Church: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.”

When God willed to open America to the Gospel, He looked upon Juan Diego, a poor humble peasant who also received a visitation and message from Heaven. Attracted to the mountains by heavenly singing whose source he did not know, he saw a noble Lady, radiant, of unimaginable perfection, clothed in the sun, according to the account of the Nican Mopohua.She introduced herself as the Mother of the true God and asked him to go to the Bishop and tell him to build a Chapel on the hill of Tepeyac. Three attempts and three miracles were necessary to convince the Bishop: the miracle of the roses of Castile, which blossomed in winter on the mountain, utterly out of season; the miracle of the cape, and the miraculous cure of Juan Bernardino, Juan Diego’s uncle. Finally grace prevailed over episcopal prudence and human incredulity, and the Chapel was built with the results we know.

Dear friends, the blessed days we have lived have unfolded between the two mysteries of the Annunciation and the Visitation. We are witnesses that the People of God journeying in America is saying “yes” to the call of this Year of Faith. We have hastened to this meeting to revive the gift of faith which we received 500 years ago, and we want to be witnesses of it in unity, given that this gift is the most precious inheritance that has united South and North America since its origins.

We have come guided by the Star of the first and the new evangelization: Our Lady of Guadalupe, Empress of the Americas, whose liturgical feast we celebrate today. As “Wise Men of the East,” we thought we knew this noble Lady well, but the events of this Congress, the conferences, the prayers and the testimonies, have helped us to rediscover her. That is why our soul glorifies the Lord with her, because He has looked upon the poor, which we are, and by her maternal intercession, has touched us and renewed us. We are ready to take the message of the Gospel with new ardor, with new methods and in a new language.

We will never repeat sufficiently that the Virgin Mary’s apparition to Juan Diego was determinant for the transmission of the faith to the peoples of America. It marked the moment of the takeoff of evangelization. It made possible the reconciliation of opponents and the penetration of the Gospel in the heart and culture of the natives. It also restrained the appetite of the conquistadors and adventurers. Blessed be God for that face of tenderness and mercy that led the people of America to the adoration of the one Savior Jesus Christ.

The song of praise and thanksgiving that rises from our hearts at the end of this Congress shows us that the Holy Spirit has touched us and urges us to take up again the way of the Mother of Fair Love and Holy Hope. We have received notable graces at the tomb of the Apostles Peter and Paul in this Year of Faith; we leave more conscious of our dignity of children of God, which makes us cry out: “Abba! Father! Thy Kingdom come!”

Fortified and confirmed by the blessing of the Successor of Peter, let us go to our brothers and sisters; in the power of the Spirit, let us give witness to the truth of the Gospel and of the unity of the Catholic Church which transcends the borders of all races, cultures and social conditions. The continent that has grown under the sign of Christ the King and under the staff of Peter must transmit and spread its faith to be faithful to itself. The poor anxiously await this witness which must be manifested in sincere charity, fraternity and effective solidarity with the least privileged.

May the baptized of America thus become “Missionary disciples” in the power of the Spirit, Who sends them to a Continental Mission that must embrace the whole continent. May all the baptized rise and proclaim their faith with pride, in respect of others’ liberty but conscious that they must pass the torch of faith to the new generations of the digital culture. Above all, may a new flowering arise of holy men and holy women for the New Evangelization. The vocation to sanctity is for the whole Church and there is no insurmountable obstacle to holiness, regardless of our state in life. It is enough to make an act of faith the size of a mustard seed t move a mountain, the Gospel tells us.

At the end of the 17th century, the Church canonized Saint Rose of Lima, the first native American to be raised to the altar. The story is that when it was suggested to the Pope to beatify her, he answered that even if a rain of roses were to fall on the Vatican, he would not believe in the sanctity of an Indian. Suddenly, rose petals fell on Rome. In 1671, the canonization of Rose of Lima, proclaimed patroness of Peru and later of the whole of South America, of India and of the Philippines, gave way to great solemnities, not only in Lima and Rome, but also in Paris (See History of the Saints and of Christian Sanctity, Volume 8, p. 251).

In mid-October of this Year of Faith, at the height of the Synod on the New Evangelization, we celebrated with great joy the canonization of Kateri Tekakwhita, a young native girl of North America, who died at 24 years of age and had to flee from her family and her tribe to keep her virginal passion for Christ. Loved equally in Canada and the United States, Saint Kateri now belongs to the universal Church and is thus a mediating figure for the reconciliation of peoples and the reception of the Gospel.

May these two privileged daughters of Our Lady of Guadalupe join hands in the highest Heavens , not only to unite the North and South of the American continent, but to radiate the Catholic faith in the whole world. A throng of other men and women saints have preceded us on the path of the Gospel in America; let us invoke them with one heart so that their passion of love, their passion for Christ, may continue to win souls thirsty for hope and liberation.

The many social evils that afflict America exact from Christ’s disciples a treatment that will do away with the mortal virus of egoism, envy and hatred. We must fight against the exploitation of the poor, illicit trade, and unjust laws regarding immigration, urban violence, the disintegration of the family, and many other afflictions. Christ the Redeemer responds to these challenges through our commitment to justice and solidarity founded on the grace of conversion and penance. May we, the Christians of America, therefore, be in the front line of the battle, so that the witness of our faith is not contradicted by our indifference and the lack of coherence in our lives.

Dear friends, let us put in the hands of Holy Mary of Guadalupe, Our Mother, the hopes and projects born from this meeting in Rome, 15 years after of the Synod on America. In face of the immense needs of the New Evangelization, our possibilities are poor, but our faith is great. May that faith increase even more today and in every communion with the Body of the Risen Christ who makes us participants in his victory.

“And I heard a loud voice in Heaven: “Now victory is established, and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ.” Amen!


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