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Card. Juan Sandoval Iniguez
Archbishop of Gadalajara, President of the Episcopal Commission of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2,000

Placing Christ at the center of our life and of our pastoral action, is without a doubt the great challenge and the great opportunity which Providence offers to the faithful and to the pastors of Latin America, baptized as the Continent of Hope. Jesus is the lord and we are his Church. He counts on us to announce the Good News to men and to women of our time. «The evangelization is the essential mission of the Church... It exists in order to evangelize» (EN, 14). On these expectations and on the hopes, I would like to develop some reflections on the privileged moment which the Christian communities of our Continent are living, and in particular in our Latin-American Church. The Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops, which took place in Rome from last November 16 to December 12, -which was also integrated in the scope of the splendid itinerary of the preparation to the Great Jubilee of the Year 2,000 (Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 38) - offers all of us, promoters of the new evangelization, a decisive reference sign, to take on the commitment of the highest levels, based on our human and spiritual heredity. The post-Synodal document, which the Pope will give us at an opportune time, and which we hope to receive at the feet of Our Lady of Guadalupe, will be the most luminous sign on our pastoral walk in the coming years.

1. The Synod, a great gift of God
In more than five centuries of history, this is the first time that the Bishops of the American continent were reunited together with the Holy Father to reflect on the ecclesial and human reality of this geographic area, full of light and shadows, to find solutions to the grave challenges which we must face. Aside from the social, economic, cultural , political and sometimes even religious peculiarities, the Synod highlighted the great common problems, convinced that these will only be surpassed through the grace of collaboration and of fraternal help between the particular Churches of the hemisphere and through the renewal of our being Christians.
The Synod was a great gift from God for the pilgrim Church in the American continent. It represented a splendid opportunity to recognize, value and thank for the great benefits - the Magnalia Dei - which the Lord conceded to his people in this New World, enriched by mature fruits of its saints and irrigated by the blood of the numerous martyrs of yesterday and today (Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 37). Apart from the local differences, there emerged yet again, the characteristics of an identity and a common destiny, which are reflected in a common Christian and Catholic root, in the reality of a young Church which is full of potential and in the richness of its cultural plurality.

These factors alone, will help us, with an optimistic look towards the future, to make the specific program laid out for the entire Church by the Holy Father John Paul II our own (Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 29). The Pope's program was generally welcomed with great enthusiasm and is already bearing fruit of new life, in the most diverse environments of our social and ecclesial reality. We believe that the objectives assigned by the Holy Father to the Synodal assembly were reached heavily through the grace and action of the Holy Spirit which has always guided our countries and thanks also to the fraternal climate of prayer and work amongst all the participants. The general theme is well known: «Encounter with the living Jesus Christ, a walk of conversion, communion and solidarity in America». Around this, it seeks to encompass all the problems of the continent, especially relating to evangelizaiton and above all to the search for authentic solutions proposed by the faith in Jesus Christ, sole Savior. The enormous richness of this marvelous ecclesial experience can be seen reflected in three great areas: in the person of Jesus Christ, in the reality of his Church and in the missionary vocations of the Church in the world.

2. On the path of reconciliation
In synthesis with the universal Church, the figure of Jesus Christ, «I am yesterday, today and always» (Hb. 13, 8), was the center of the debate at the Synod. It is evident that the originality of the new evangelization does not consist in changing the contents of the message, but of renewing the attitude of the evangelizors, provoking, with the witness of a healthy life, a generous response to all those to whom it is destined. Our Apostolic efforts will be addressed towards the new evangelization, the human promotion, the inculturation of the Gospel, according the wise directives of the Document of Santo Domingo. They are objectives which we can attain only in the search for an encounter with the person of the living Christ, and thanks to a profound and sincere conversion in Him.
The Second Vatican Council was an event of grace for the entire Church. Our main point of reference on the way of evangelization remains integral, renewed and inculturated, proposed by the last three General Episcopal Conferences of Latin America, celebrated in Medellin (1968), Puebla (1979) and Santo Domingo (1992), whose main objective was the putting the Council into practice. We should here recognize that we still have quite a way to go to achieve in our personal and communitary lives the most profound teachings of the Council, and this commits us to a permanent examination of conscience (Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 36).

3. In the service of hope
Fortunately, there are favorable realties and situations in the evangelic development of the Church, which allow us to look at the future with hope. As an example we can look at the thirst of God which is one of the more prevalent characteristics of contemporary culture; the promotion of some values tied to the dignity of the person; the expectation of a more inter-acting democracy; a better missionary conscience for the laity and a deepening of the social doctrine of the Church. In each of these cases, it deals with valid elements which can contribute to the diffusion of the Good News.
In our communities, the family is very much appreciated, as the domestic Church, sanctuary of life and keeper of moral base values and of foundations in Christianity, amongst which are hospitality and mutual help. The preparation to matrimonial life and the accompaniment of our families in the human and Christian maturation, must be aspects of priority in our ordinary pastoral work. The same goes for the parish, conceived as a community of communities and as a missionary community, which is an irreplacable element of the pastoral project; and for Apostolic movements of the laity, able to form Christians committed to the transformation of the temporal realities, especially in the education sector, politics, economy and in the use of the social means of communication.

We must work on incentives even for the profound religious sentiment of our populations, the great faith in the providence of God and in the intercession of the Virgin Mary and of the Saints. Popular religiosity must grow, accompanied and purified, so that it is integrated in a daily oration which leads to the increased appreciation of liturgical life and to its protection in the daily life in the social dimension of the Gospel. In Latin America, the young generation constitutes the great hope and at the same time the great challenge of evangelization on the threshold of the third millennium. The growth of priestly, and religious vocations, along with the variety of ministries and charisma in the sphere of the Apostolate of the laity, are signes of a founded hope. We thank all the evangelizors who have given and continue to give their life in the sequel of Christ and in the service of their brothers. The search for communion must open our Churches to the mission ad gentes, trying to give back to so many sister churches that which for centuries we have received from them.

And there are many and grave challenges in the Church and in the world, which create obstacles or delay the fulfillment of the promises of God to his people. Amongst these, we cannot silence secularism, hedonism, consumerism, moral relativism and religious ignorance. In our path we find sin in all its forms: injustice, marginalization, corruption, violence, drug and arms trafficking, ecological disregard: in large part highlighted by the use of the social means of communication.
The Church in Latin America intends to confirm the preferential choices for the poor and the weak, and wants to hold the marginalized by the hand: the Indigenous, the Afro-Americans, the immigrants, the farmers, the illiterate, the terminally ill, the elderly, the street children, the unemployed, women who by themselves carry the weight of responsibility of the family in precarious situations, all those who are involved in drugs and alcohol, victims of deviation and of sexual abuses. The family is today circulated by threats such as the disintegration, free union, divorce, abortion, family planning through birth control, restrictive demographic policies.

It is urgently necessary to promote the reconciliation and fraternity to unite us to other protagonists of social life, bringing with us the best of our convictions in favor of peace and forgiveness. It urges promoting an authentic ecumenism, so as not to fall in the diffused confusion of sects and of new fundamentalist religious groups and exoterics.
Notwithstanding all these negative signs, our hope in Jesus Christ is great, that with his death and resurrection he wins over the forces of evil and destroys sin and death. He animates our hope in eternal salvation, which stimulates us to anticipate the Kingdom in this world, working for the building of a Latin America which is more united in faith and more active in charity. The future of humanity is certainly in the hands of those who know how to give future generations reasons to believe and to live, but above all reasons to hope (cf. 1 Peter 3, 15).
Hope, as a fundamental attitude, is not based in the first place on the human strengths or on earthly plans and propositions, but on the power of Jesus Christ, who died and rose again. The presence of the Virgin Mary, in her numerous chapels and sanctuaries, but above all, alive in the heart of the people of faith, from Rio Bravo to Terra del Fuego, is a sign of fondness and a reason of encouragement in the work which awaits us.