The Holy See
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Bogotà , 9-12 March 2006

Your Excellency,

Before the upcoming celebration in Bogotá of the Congress of Ecclesial Movements and New Communities in Latin America, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM), I am pleased to convey the cordial greeting of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the Bishops, the leaders of the various movements and the other participants at the meeting.

At the same time, the Holy Father encourages them to share fraternally the riches of their own spirituality and experience in order to contribute ever greater vigour to Christian life in this part of the world where the Church has placed so much hope.

Indeed, the effort to revive an awareness of the baptismal commitment and the desire to live intensely the vocation to holiness that stems from it is always an essential contribution to the Church's life. Moreover, her charisms, pedagogical methods, apostolic styles or missionary outreach develop an evangelizing tradition that is full of exemplary initiatives and witnesses.

The theme chosen for the Congress:  "Disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ today", highlights two essential and interconnected aspects in the continuous journey of the Church as she presses forward ""amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God', announcing the Cross and death of the Lord until he comes" (Lumen Gentium, n. 8).

Indeed, being a disciple of Christ is not a temporary situation that ends at a specific moment; the disciple always needs to be listening to, learning from and following the one Teacher (cf. Mt 23: 8), without the ambition to be a teacher himself one day. Consequently, disciples must consider themselves as brothers and sisters (cf. ibid.).

On the other hand, disciples of Christ are not limited to receiving his teachings as if they were imposed from the outside. They begin to be disciples through a fascinating and eternally timely encounter with him which brings about an indescribable relationship of communion and impels them to follow in his footsteps and imitate his way of life (cf. Deus Caritas Est, n. 1).
And they do this with the gift of themselves and the conviction that they have found the true treasure of their life (cf. Mt 13: 44), in comparison with which no other alternative or proposal has greater interest.
Christians today must always be disciples of Christ, whom they can approach in many ways, because he always waits for us on the paths of our existence in order to teach us what the gift of God is and give us the real living water to drink (cf. Jn 4: 10).

Above all, Christians must encounter Christ in the Eucharist and in the other sacraments, which are privileged moments in his company until the end of time, as he promised his disciples (cf. Mt 28: 20).

Moreover, they must continue to learn the Teacher's lessons through love of, study of and meditation on Scripture, under the guidance of those who have received the specific responsibility to jealously guard and faithfully explain God's Word (cf. Dei Verbum, n. 10).

As good disciples, Movements and Communities are likewise called to be witnesses and missionaries of the message received and to hold out a friendly hand to others, so that they too may discover Christ. They should reach out to those who do not yet know him and those who live their Christianity superficially, to those who should also be given the necessary support to strengthen their faith more and more every day and to form it correctly as they face the snares of a secularized mentality or a mindset that spreads religious indifference in many Latin American milieus.

In this task, the missionary must not cease to be a disciple; he should give no more than he himself has received and continues to receive, nor should he put his own ideas first or seek his own advantage. Disciples and missionaries know that they are only "poor servants" (Lk 17: 10), whose greatest joy is to serve the Lord and collaborate organically and faithfully with the mission entrusted by Christ to his Church (cf. Ad Gentes, n. 6).

In this respect, it is appropriate to recall the words of the Holy Father Benedict XVI in Cologne:  "The spontaneity of new communities is important, but it is also important to preserve communion with the Pope and with the Bishops. It is they who guarantee that we are not seeking private paths, but instead are living as God's great family, founded by the Lord through the Twelve Apostles" (Homily, Marienfeld Esplanade, Cologne, 21 August 2005; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 24 August, p. 12).

The importance of ecclesial communion, on which the authenticity of all experiences of Christian life and the effectiveness of pastoral initiatives depends, is also evident in this context. Therefore, the unforgettable Pope John Paul II insisted that everyone should humbly seek to be part of the life of the local Churches, of the diocesan and parish structures, thereby demonstrating a pluralistic view of the ways of associating and expressing themselves (cf. Redemptoris Missio, n. 72).

As well as gratitude for the many initiatives carried out with generosity and skill, the Church also expresses the hope that Movements and New Communities will help to give a fresh impetus to the evangelization of all social sectors, of the world of work and the family, culture and education and, lastly, of all those areas in which human life develops today, in circumstances that are frequently not very favourable for a full and deep Christian life.

As he entrusts the success of this Congress to the Most Holy Virgin Mary so that it will obtain abundant fruit for the life of the Church among the Latin American peoples, the Holy Father is pleased to impart to all the participants the implored Apostolic Blessing.


Secretary of State to His Holiness