Catholic leaders at an international mission conference for the Americas said the church must become a missionary community with a new mentality.
The message for conference participants was that "we have to get involved if we're going to be true to the Gospel of Christ and make a difference in the world in which we're living," Bishop Patrick J. Zurek of Amarillo, Texas, told Catholic News Service.
The Third American Missionary Congress drew more than 2,000 laypeople, bishops, priests and religious to Quito, Ecuador, Aug. 12-17 to discuss challenges for mission, from family life and fundamentalism to ecology and science. Several participants talked to CNS by telephone during and after the conference.
The closing Mass marked the official launch of the "great continental mission" that bishops from Latin America and the Caribbean announced in May 2007 during their fifth general conference in Aparecida, Brazil.
That mission must build on "a spirit that was begun in Aparecida, the spirit of mission, of discipleship," Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros of Brooklyn, N.Y., told CNS.
Sister Mary McGlone, president of the U.S. Catholic Mission Association and a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet, said, "The challenge for mission for Latin America is to move beyond the boundaries of Latin America, to go out" to the world.
According to statistics on the congress Web site, South America sends 5,785 missionaries to other countries and receives 12,011.
Bishop Cisneros said that being a missionary church means not just sending missionaries to remote areas, but "realizing that we are all missionaries. Even in our own parishes, we have to become those who ... listen, learn" and proclaim the Gospel.
Speaking on the first day of the conference, Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Mariadaga of Tegucigalpa said Catholics "must proclaim the good news of the kingdom in faithfulness and strength, especially because there are many who oppose it out of ambition for power, love of wealth or desire for pleasure."
The cardinal said disciples must "be willing to renounce all they have had until now, to carry out the mission of propagating the faith both within and beyond the borders of the country."
Cardinal Rodriguez said the Catholic Church in Latin America must reach out to people who "do not know the full manifestation of the love of God" incarnated in Jesus and must go beyond national borders "to the growing multitude of those who do not know Christ."
At the same time, he said, "as evangelizers, we are concerned about so many men and women who for various reasons ... have become strangers to the faith or to religious meaning."
At last year's meeting in Aparecida, the bishops expressed concern about both the headway made by evangelical groups in the region and the number of Catholics who have become unchurched. One goal of the continental mission is to invite Catholics back into the church.
Sister Mary said it is important to note that the bishops spoke of a "continental mission," not just a Latin American effort. That poses the "challenge of seeing how this experience of interchange can help us become one church in America," she said.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Latin American bishops' council, known as CELAM, work closely together in many areas. For the past decade, Bishop Zurek said, the prelates on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border have met several times a year to discuss common concerns, especially ministry to migrants.
However, the U.S. bishops have not yet established an office to coordinate the continental mission with Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean, and it is not clear what form the effort will take.
Bishop Zurek said the continental mission should provide an opportunity to emphasize issues of common concern, such as migration, globalization and economic justice.
One challenge is to get Catholics in the United States "involved with the issues of South America," he said. "Can we make a difference with our government, in the sense of the way we do politics, or with our economic community, in the way we do business in Latin America, so that people will not have to leave to come and find work in our country?"
By including the U.S. and Canadian church leaders in the continental mission, he said, "we are saying we are one America, we are one family, we are one church."
The Rev. Jim Peck has an unusual background for a United Church of Christ minister.
He was raised Southern Baptist, began his working career as a regional planner and was inspired to become a pastor by Pope John Paul II.
Peck said he's glad to be in Chico and excited about his new position. He'll be formally installed at a special service on Sept. 14.
Born in North Carolina, he later moved with his family to Atlanta, where he went to high school and college.
He and his parents belonged to a "non-fundamentalist" Southern Baptist Church, "a wonderful church with a loving, caring spirit," he said. "I got a great education understanding the Bible."
He also developed an open mind, he said, as his parents and pastor advised him, "Don't let anybody tell you it's just one way."
Peck majored in urban studies at Mercer University and then did graduate work in regional planning at Cornell.
He worked in Atlanta for 10 years, specializing in affordable housing. He was employed by the state Housing Department.
In 1990, Peck went to work as an adviser to Colorado Gov. Roy Romer. He had 28 "issue areas" on which he advised the governor. One area was "church-state issues."
"That was a great job," he said. However, he'd gone into politics with the goal of helping people and after a time, he felt he was no longer doing much of that. He began thinking of a different career — perhaps law, perhaps the ministry.
As it happened, Pope John Paul II came to Denver for a World Youth Day, and Peck was given two tickets. He and a friend went and found themselves sitting right in front of the stage. At one point they were just six feet from the pope.
It was amazing, being part of that event, where 350,000 people from all over the world were standing and singing, he said. "This clinched the deal" on a next move.
Peck said he told his friend, "I think I need to become a minister."
The vision he had was of "individual folks acting out of their faith commitments to help each other build a better world," he said.
Peck graduated in 1999 with a master's of divinity from United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities.
His first position was as pastor of a Congregational church in Austin, Minn., where he served until moving to Chico.
In Austin, he profited by his involvement with other ministers, he said. "I'm from a liberal tradition, but, boy, I sure have learned a lot from listening to my evangelical colleagues."
Members of his Chico congregation impress him with their seriousness about Jesus' commandment to "love one another," he said. "It's a good church, a good group of folks."
He added, "I like the idea of helping a small church grow and thrive."
Vatican City, June, 21,2008 - In spite of the difficulties that the Church faces in Pakistan, it is growing, and, by forming priests and laity carefully, it is carrying forward interreligious dialogue; at the same time, by making its services available to serve the common good, it demonstrates that "the love of Christ is no mere abstraction". Benedict XVI encourages the actions of Catholics of Pakistan, "despite conditions that sometimes hinder their capacity to take root", in his address to the country's bishops, whom he received today for their five-year "ad limina" visit. "Whenever we courageously shoulder the burdens placed upon us in circumstances often beyond our control", he told them, "we encounter Jesus himself, who gives us a hope that surpasses the sufferings of the present because it transforms us from within".
In his address, Benedict XVI emphasised among other things the importance of the example of faith that the bishops and priests should offer, especially through their love for the Eucharist. Eucharistic spirituality embraces the entire Christian life, as shown by the vitality of the ecclesial movements in the country, which the pope particularly urged to grow in listening to the Gospel, which will increase their charitable concern for their neighbour.
This characteristic also marks Catholic institutions. "Those who serve in Catholic hospitals, schools, social and charitable agencies respond to the concrete needs of others, knowing well that they are ministering to the Lord himself through their particular acts of charity". "Priests, religious and the lay faithful in your Dioceses, by caring for the sick, helping young people grow in knowledge and virtue, and meeting the needs of the poor, reveal the human face of God's love for each and every person".
Vatican City - Masochism or self-mutilation, has marked the life of the Church for two millennia. The first was Judas, who thought it might be a good idea to make the person and the message of Jesus Christ more acceptable to worldly powers. Perhaps he did not have the time to come to know and to accept the mystery of God made man for mankind.
Something similar happened following the Second Vatican Council, and after two thousand years of reflection on Jesus Christ and investigation: Karl Rahner especially took a “turning”, - which proved to be a pause and a transformation - distancing himself from earlier epochs, convinced as he was that up to then theological reflection had overlooked, or worse, forgotten the reality of man.
In what did that "turning" consist ?
To be brief: the origin of human discussion about God and divine revelation was not God Himself, instead it was man's questions about himself. Consequently, theology must always speak of man and his salvation, pose queries about the human race and the world. We know this theory met with considerable criticism: I mention that of Leo Scheffczyk, eventually a cardinal and who died a few years ago.
That position did not remain merely a “theological thought”, it became a practice which has slowly permeated many areas of doctrine and ecclesial life. One of the most clamorous consequences was the manner in which sacramental doctrine is understood: today the Sacrament is no longer lived as coming down from on high, from God, instead it has become participation in something the Christian already possesses. The conclusion reached by Häu?ling is that man in the Sacraments participates in an action which no longer really correspond to his need to be saved.
The response to this ‘sacrament’ theory, consequential to the anthropological change in a certain type of theology, was provided by Joseph Ratzinger, when he had to face liturgical deviation which tended towards separation from an act of God which is prior to every human thought and deed; tending towards separation from “before” Jesus Christ. Discussion about God and indeed even worship of God, is possible only because He addressed man first with His revelation.
The Liturgy is none other than the continuation of this Revelation, as Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI wrote in his book “Jesus Nazareth”. Without the “before”, God's descent in the Incarnation and later in the Liturgy, theological discussion and Liturgy can be alienation or a human projection.
Look at the proliferation of essays on liturgical anthropology, which go as far as reducing Sacramental signs, now preferably referred to as symbols, in today's weak sense of evocative but empty signs.
The situation is serious, not only because all this is taught even at a few theological faculties (as well!), but because it would seem impossible to engage in frank and scientifically equipped debate, without being censured.
Seeing that today the rage is to look to the 'East' – at least for the sake of ecumenical correctness – it must be said that for Eastern theology the “anthropological turn” was a wrong turn, and it was taken by Western theology.
The sole fundamental subject of all theology, at all times, is and must remain, the Incarnation of the Word, the human-divine Beginning, who came into the world "for us men and for our salvation”. Mankind, detached from God, has no chance of survival.
Persisting and concentrating almost all our discourses only on man, as it has happened, means God is left out of the conversation.
Guiding us along the timeless path of Catholic doctrine, Pope Benedict XVI is directing attention to God's “before”. This is indispensable, if the boat of Peter is to keep steady in the truth and secure in peace.
Tradition holds that it was here that Saint Peter, the disciple of Jesus considered the founder of the Christian Church, arrived from Palestine and headed to Rome to begin the evangelisation of Europe.
"This promontory between Europe and the Mediterranean, between West and East, reminds us that the Church has no borders, that it is universal," said the 81-year-old pontiff.
Benedict also hailed the "generosity" of the port city of Brindisi that for years took in thousands of refugees from the former Yugoslavia and Albania.
The German-born pope celebrated an open-air mass attended by several thousand people under a hot sun at a sanctuary dedicated to the Virgin Mary overlooking the sea in this town at the tip of the heel of Italy's "boot."
"Here as in all of southern Italy, Church communities are places where the young generation can learn hope, not as a Utopia but as the tenacious confidence in the force of good," the pope said.
"For the Church, geographical, cultural, ethnic and even religious borders are an invitation to evangelisation," he said.
Local Bishop Vito De Grisantis, greeting the pope, stressed the "need for rapid social, civil and economic development" in southern Italy, "especially to help families and young people for whom unemployment is an ever more serious problem."
The pope replied: "In a context in which individualism is more and more encouraged ... the first service of the Church is to educate in the social sense, towards paying attention to those around you, to solidarity and sharing."
He added: "The Church can have a positive influence, especially on the social level," because it fosters "open and constructive human relationships, respectful of the service of the humblest and the weakest."
Later Saturday, at a vigil with young people in nearby Brindisi, the pope warned against "the temptation of easy profits."
The Church and several humanitarian groups offered "refuge and help, despite the economic difficulties that continue to affect this region in particular," he said.
The pontiff was set to celebrate another open-air mass in Brindisi on Sunday.