Faith in God Who Is Love

Benedict XVI presided at Mass outside the Brazilian shrine of Aparecida. The ceremony, attended by some 300,000 people, marked the inauguration of the Fifth General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Bishops and priests from the various episcopal conferences of Latin America and the Caribbean concelebrated with the Pope.

In his homily the Holy Father affirmed that "this liturgical celebration lays a most solid foundation for the fifth general conference, setting it on the firm basis of prayer and the Eucharist, Sacramentum Caritatis. Only the love of Christ, poured out by the Holy Spirit, can make this meeting an authentic ecclesial event, a moment of grace for this continent and for the whole world."

After emphasizing how "the Church's mission exists only as a prolongation of Christ's mission: 'As the Father has sent me, even so I send you'." the Pope pointed out that "Christ's mission is accomplished in love. He has kindled in the world the fire of God's love. It is love that gives life: and so the Church has been sent forth to spread Christ's love throughout the world."

"The Church," he went on "considers herself the disciple and missionary of this love: missionary only insofar as she is a disciple, capable of being attracted constantly and with renewed wonder by the God Who has loved us and Who loves us first. The Church does not engage in proselytism. Instead, she grows by 'attraction:' just as Christ 'draws all to Himself' by the power of His love, culminating in the sacrifice of the Cross, so the Church fulfils her mission to the extent that, in union with Christ, she accomplishes every one of her works in spiritual and practical imitation of the love of her Lord."

"Faith in the God Who is love," said Pope Benedict, is the Latin American continent's "most precious inheritance. This is your strength, which overcomes the world, the joy that nothing and no one can ever take from you, the peace that Christ won for you by His Cross! This is the faith that has made America the 'continent of hope.' Not a political ideology, not a social movement, not an economic system: faith in the God Who is Love — Who took flesh, died and rose in Jesus Christ – is the authentic basis for this hope which has brought forth such a magnificent harvest from the time of the first evangelization until today, as attested by the ranks of saints and blesseds whom the Spirit has raised up throughout the continent."

"Whoever loves the Lord Jesus and keeps His word, already experiences in this world the mysterious presence of the Triune God. We heard this in the Gospel: 'we will come to Him and make our home with Him.' Every Christian is therefore called to become a living stone of this splendid 'dwelling place of God with men.' What a magnificent vocation!"

The Holy Father concluded by expressing the hope that, "through the prayers of the Virgin Mary," the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean may be "abundantly clothed with power from on high, in order to spread throughout this continent and the whole world the holiness of Christ."

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