Western Hemisphere bishops seek ways to boost 'encounter with Christ' - Catholic Courier

Western Hemisphere bishops seek ways to boost ‘encounter with Christ’

By Catholic News Service
TAMPA, Fla. (CNS) — Fourteen bishops from the United States, Latin America and Canada explored ways to invite the faithful into what Pope Francis has called "an encounter with Jesus Christ" during three days of prayer and discussion.
The 38th meeting of bishops of America concluded Feb. 25 with the prelates saying they were returning home with a feeling of camaraderie and solidarity after sharing their experiences of service and a fuller understanding of the unity they share through the church.
Representatives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Latin American bishops’ council, known as CELAM, and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops attended the meeting, which opened Feb. 22.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, USCCB president, told Catholic News Service Feb. 26 that those gathered focused much of their conversation on the Year of Mercy and how each of them could respond in mercy to struggling people.
He said he drew from Pope Francis’ first Lenten letter, which discussed the distinction between poverty and destitution in life during one part of the meeting.
"Christ calls us to live in poverty and simplicity, but no one should live in destitution," Archbishop Kurtz said. "He talks about physical destitution. So many of us talked about the corporal works of mercy being done. The Archdiocese of Bogota (Colombia) had a presentation on what they’re trying to do to reach out to homeless people."
The conversation expanded to cover moral and spiritual destitution in local communities and how to show people that "mercy has a face," he explained.
Immigration also was on the minds of the church leaders because it affects all of the countries of the hemisphere. Archbishop Kurtz said hearing from the leaders of Latin America, especially Cardinal Jose Luis Lacunza of Panama, helped him understand how widespread the concerns are.
"He was talking about immigrants coming from Cuba, wanting a better life with the hope of going to the United States," he said.
"We understand there are real issues (with migration) that have to be faced, but they have to be faced by seeing the person first," the archbishop explained.
Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota, CELAM president, said in a statement from the USCCB that the bishops seek to accompany the faithful as they search for "a more dignified life for families."
Bishop Douglas Crosby of Hamilton, Ontario, president of the Canadian bishops’ conference, said the meeting encouraged the bishops in their work. "We learn from one another," he said in the statement. "we support one another; we encourage one another. We are united in our desire to follow Christ faithfully."
The bishops discussed how Jesus’ love heals and unifies as they focused on several topics including immigration, evangelization of urban communities, native peoples’ rights, physician-assisted suicide, the danger of pornography, and the growing threat to religious freedom around the world.
Subsequent discussions looked at how the individual conferences were supporting the Year of Mercy called for by Pope Francis. The statement said the bishops looked in particular at how the topic of mercy is discussed in the Aparecida document, which was drafted in 2007 by Pope Francis when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and offers a pastoral vision and guidelines for the region’s church.
The bishops shared how resources related to the pontiff’s call are being distributed to parishioners under each conference’s jurisdiction.
Other USCCB representatives attending included Archbishop Gregory J. Aymond of New Orleans, conference secretary, and Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth.
The meetings have been periodically held since 1967 to emphasize the unity of the Catholic Church in the Western Hemisphere. 

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