From December 9, the feast of St. Juan Diego, to December 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Knights of Columbus co-sponsored the “Ecclesia in America” conference at the Vatican. The conference, which addressed the history and future of the Church in America, was co-sponsored with the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and with assistance from the Institute for Guadalupan Studies in Mexico City.
Pope Benedict XVI addressed the conference at a private audience on the 9th – the feast of St. Juan Diego.
Fifteen years after Pope John Paul II held the Synod for America to discuss the future of the Church in North, Central and South America, the conference brought together a diverse group from throughout the United States, Canada, Latin America, the Vatican, Europe and beyond to discuss the history, present situation and future work of the Church on the American continent – defined as from Alaska in the North to Argentina in the South.
Members of the hierarchy from Latin America, the United States and Canada led working groups throughout the event that discussed various aspects of the Church in America, including such topics as: the New Evangelization, the Church’s role in education, the Church’s role in charity and its preferential option for the poor, and the role of the Virgin Mary in leading Christians in America to Christ.
Supreme Knight Carl Anderson addressed the conference on Monday. He spoke about the importance of the laity's role in the New Evangelization and spoke of Our Lady of Guadalupe's example and Juan Diego's cooperation with her and his bishop as excellent models of evangelization today.
Also addressing the conference was Cardinal Marc Ouellet, president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, who introduced the conference and celebrated the opening Mass. Msgr. Eduardo Chávez spoke on Our Lady of Guadalupe. Professor Guzman Carriquiry discussed the needs of Catholics facing the continent in terms of the New Evangelization and focused on the need for authentic Catholic education and cooperation among the countries of the hemisphere.
According to Professor Guzman Carriquiry, secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, “We must remember that more than 50 percent of the world's Catholics live in the Americas – a percentage that will grow in the coming decades. The fact that this conference is taking place at the center of Catholicism, with all our American churches present in communion with the Holy Father, is especially significant for us.”
Supreme Knight Anderson noted: “It is a tremendous blessing for the Church in America that the Vatican and the pope have taken such a strong interest in the faith in our hemisphere. America is truly the Christian continent. Each country in our hemisphere has a shared history of having had the good news of Jesus Christ take root there. In America, especially compared to many other parts of the world, the faith is vibrant – the legacy of the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe and of the hard work of many missionaries, including St. Juan Diego.” He added, “This conference will explore particularly how Our Lady of Guadalupe's example, and that of St. Juan Diego, can be guides for us in engaging in a new evangelization of our continent, and in bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to those who may have forgotten or lost interest in it."
Other highlights of the conference included reports from several members of the commission, presentations by Cardinal Sean O’Malley from Boston and Monsignor Eduardo Chavez, Postulator for the Cause for Canonization of St. Juan Diego, and a recitation of the rosary at the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Vatican gardens.
The conference concluded on the 12th with a closing Mass and a general audience with Pope Benedict XVI, during which he sent his first-ever “tweet”. Click here to see photos from the conference.