Benedict XVI's recent apostolic trip to Brazil was the theme of his general audience, held in St. Peter's Square in the presence of 25,000 people.
"My journey," said the Pope, "was primarily an act of praise to God for the 'wonders' worked among the people of Latin America, and for the faith that has animated their lives and culture over more than 500 years."
The Holy Father recalled how "the relationship between faith and culture" was always something dear to the hearts of his predecessors Paul VI and John Paul II. "I have sought to follow their example," he said, "confirming the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean on her journey in a faith that has become living history, popular piety and art, in dialogue with the rich pre-Colombian traditions and with the many influences from Europe and other continents.
"Of course," he added, "remembrance of a glorious past cannot ignore the shadows that accompanied the work of evangelization on the Latin American continent: the suffering and injustices inflicted by the colonizers on the indigenous peoples whose fundamental human rights were often trampled underfoot. But the obligatory mention of those unjustifiable crimes, condemned even at the time by missionaries like Bartolomeo de las Casas and theologians such as Francisco de Vitoria, must not prevent us from recognizing with gratitude the marvelous work achieved by divine grace among those peoples over the course of the centuries."
On the Latin American continent, the Holy Father continued, "the Gospel has become the mainstay of a dynamic synthesis that has different aspects in the different nations but everywhere expresses the identity of the Latin American people."
Returning to the subject of his trip, Benedict XVI observed that "Brazil is a great country that upholds profoundly rooted Christian values, but it also suffers enormous social and economic problems. In order to help solve them, the Church must mobilize all the spiritual and moral strength of her communities, seeking suitable points of agreement with other wholesome forces in the country."
"Brazil is also a country capable of offering the world a new model of development. In fact, Christian culture can encourage a 'reconciliation' between mankind and the creation on the basis of the restoration of personal dignity in the relationship with God the Father." In this context, the Holy Father mentioned his visit to the "Fazenda da Esperanca" association for the rehabilitation of people with problems of drug and alcohol abuse, which also incorporates a community of Poor Clares. "I felt that this," he said, "is emblematic for the world today, which certainly needs psychological and social 'rehabilitation,' but even more so spiritual rehabilitation."
Another important moment of the Pope's Brazil visit was the canonization of Frei Antonio de Santa Ana Galvao, "a man of peace and charity whose witness is a further confirmation that sanctity is the true revolution capable of promoting authentic reform of the Church and society."
Commenting on his meeting in Sao Paulo cathedral with Brazilian bishops — "the largest episcopal conference in the world" — the Pope recalled how "I encouraged my confreres to advance and reinforce their commitment to the new evangelization, urging them to further the diffusion of the Word of God, so that the innate and widespread religiosity of the people may deepen and become a mature faith, an individual and community adherence to the God of Jesus Christ."
"I recognize the dedication of these faithful servants who wish to present the Gospel, without reduction or confusion, safeguarding the deposit of faith. Their constant concern is to promote social development, especially through the formation of the laity who are called to take on roles of responsibility in the political and economic fields."
The Pope then turned to consider his meeting with young people, whom he encouraged "take advantage of the great 'richness' of youth in order to become the young face of the Church."
Finally, he recalled the culminating point of his trip to Brazil, the inauguration of the Fifth General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean at the Shrine of Our Lady in the Brazilian city of Aparecida. The theme of the conference is "Disciples and missionaries in Jesus Christ, that in Him our peoples may have life ('I am the Way and the Truth and the Life')."
"The word 'disciple'," said the Pope, "suggests the idea of formation and of following [a master], the term 'missionary' expresses the fruit of discipleship, in other words bearing witness to and communicating a real experience: the truth known and assimilated. Joyfully renewing the will to be disciples of Jesus is the fundamental condition for being His missionaries who 'start again from Christ,' to use the words of Pope John Paul II to the entire Church following the Jubilee 2000."
"With my apostolic trip," Pope Benedict concluded, "I wished to exhort people to continue along this path, presenting the unifying perspective of the Encyclical Deus caritas est, a perspective that is inextricably social and theological and that can be summed up in this expression: 'it is love that gives life'."
Before the audience, the Pope blessed a statue of St. Jose Manyanet (1833- 1901) which has been placed in a niche on the exterior of the apse of St. Peter's Basilica. This Spanish saint promoted the building of the cathedral of the Holy Family in Barcelona, Spain and founded the "Sons of the Holy Family" and the "Missionary Daughters of the Holy Family of Nazareth" to support the Christian education of children and adolescents.