By Devin Watkins
The Catholic Church in Latin America and the Caribbean has begun the journey toward its first-ever Ecclesial Assembly.
The event, originally scheduled for Spring 2021, will instead take place on 21-28 November of this year, and will focus on the theme: “We are all missionary disciples on the move.”
On Sunday, Church leaders from the region—along with lay faithful, clergy, and religious men and women—met in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Mexico City.
Discerning needs of Church
Pope Francis joined virtually in the event through a video message sent to Peruvian Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte of Trujillo, the president of the Episcopal Council of Latin America (CELAM).
In his message, the Pope noted the importance of the first-ever regional Church assembly, which will unite clergy and lay faithful in discerning the needs and pastoral direction of the local Church.
“We have much to learn,” he said. “This is a meeting of the people of God: lay men and women, religious men and women, priests, bishops. All the people of God walking together: praying, speaking, thinking, discussing, and seeking the will of God.”
Close to God’s people
The Pope went on to give assembly-members two criteria as they “open new horizons of hope.”
First, he urged the Church to remain in contact with ordinary Catholics.
“May this Assembly not be an elite group separated from the holy, faithful people of God,” he said.
Pope Francis recalled the Second Vatican Council’s assertion that the people of God “is infallible ‘in credendo’.”
“Outside the people of God an elite group crops up, an elite illumined by one ideology or another,” he said. “But this is not the Church. The Church is found in the breaking of the bread. The Church gives herself to all, without exclusion.”
The Ecclesial Assembly, he added, is one sign of a Church that excludes no one.
The second criterion which the Pope offered was prayer.
“The Lord is in our midst,” he said. “May the Lord help us hear His voice: this is our request that He might be with us.”
Pope Francis concluded his video message to the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean by promising his prayers.
And he encouraged the Assembly to be courageous and to recall him always in mutual prayer.