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On the occasion of the celebration in Spanish Dioceses of "Hispano-America Day", whose motto is: "America welcomes and sends us missionaries", the Pontifical Commission for Latin America extends to the Bishops, priests, Religious and faithful of the Churches in Spain a cordial greeting with the words of St Paul: "Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus, our Saviour" (Ti 1: 4).

This celebration takes place within the framework of the "Year of the Eucharist". Therefore, the mission of the Church in Spain at this time feels especially enlightened by the mystery of the Eucharist. The Church herself reminds us that this sacrament is "the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the font from which all her power flows" (Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 10).

This annual celebration, wherein Spain shifts its gaze to America and commemorates the historical event of the evangelization of the New World, has been recently enriched by missionary exchange. Indeed, Spain not only sends missionaries to the Young Churches in Latin America; it also receives American missionaries who come to place themselves at the service of the Gospel in this Land. The motto chosen for this year's celebration makes special reference to this aspect: "America welcomes and sends us missionaries".

If, on the one hand, this initiative is an effective realization of the desire expressed by the Synod Fathers during the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops, held in the Vatican in 1997 to "maintain a greater cooperation between sister Churches", sending missionaries "within the Continent and abroad" (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America, n. 74), on the other, the space of time must not hinder us from perceiving this missionary exchange as one of the marvellous fruits of the evangelization that began more than five centuries ago in the so-called "New World".

Moreover, this duty is still being carried out today within the context of the "new evangelization" promoted by John Paul II, with the requirement to discover ways that are always more daring and creative, and at the same time effective for modern times, in order to present the Gospel to society.

The signs of the times require an apostolic effort that is rooted in personal encounter with Jesus Christ (cf. ibid., n. 68), who is truly present in the Eucharist. The general framework in which the celebration of the "Hispano-America Day" will be held is particularly important, as is the title that John Paul II wished to give to the Apostolic Letter that has served as the introduction to the Year of the Eucharist: Mane Nobiscum Domine ("Stay with us, Lord").

The words spoken by the men on the road to Emmaus one evening express the deep desire of the Lord's disciples to see his promise fulfilled: to remain always with us (cf. Mt 28: 20), together with the understanding that every missionary effort becomes fruitful only if it derives from communion with Jesus Christ and from the personal and continual encounter with him through the sacrifice of the Eucharist.

In Latin America, the opening days of the Year of the Eucharist were marked by the extraordinary celebration of the International Eucharistic Congress held at Guadalajara. In the standard text used for the reflections at the Congress, it is written that "the evangelizing power of the Eucharist is such as to invite the Christian to offer him/herself in a generous missionary commitment that responds to the situation of every land and region" (cf. 48th International Eucharistic Congress, "The Eucharist: Light and Life of the new millennium", n. 63).

On the other hand, in the history of the evangelization of America the importance of the celebration of the Eucharist since the very beginning is remarkable: it is the sacred environment the first missionaries used as a privileged area for catechists and of contact with the "Mystery".

For this reason, among the Hispano-American Peoples there exists a Eucharistic piety that is rooted in the depth of the heart of the Catholic faithful. The enormous quantity of churches, many of exceptional beauty spread throughout the American Continent, even in the most remote places, confirms this.

At the same time, though, given the "scarcity of labourers" to gather in such a plentiful harvest (cf. Mt 9: 38), it confirms the urgent need today, as in the past, for the Church in Spain to keep its missionary commitment and cooperation with the Peoples of Latin America alive. Love for Christ, rooted in the soul of the Latin-American People, is called to be evermore inflamed and to spread rather than become extinguished in the face of the lack of dynamic missionary outreach and evangelization.

In the name of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America I express my best wishes for a positive outcome for the celebration of the "Hispano-America Day", carrying out every initiative in favour of the work of the evangelization of missionaries and encouraging the participation of all who feel called by the Lord to place their own lives at the service of this noble aim.

From the Vatican, 6 January 2005, Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re

Archbishop Luis Robles Díaz