Pope Lists 7 Key Challenges in Latin America
As someone who was born and raised in Latin America, I can only be but filled with joy when the Pope addresses the current problems the Church faces in the region when looking ahead to the 5th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin American and the Caribbean this upcoming month of May. Not because I rejoice in the actual problems, but simply because the Church is paying attention to what is happening in the continent.
Pope Benedict XVI addressed seven challenges that the Church in Latin America faces today in an address to papal representatives in Latin America. These challenges in the “continent of hope” as recalled by John Paul II are:
1. The need for recognition of religious liberty
2. Growing hedonist secularism
3. Proselytism from sects
4. Legislation opposed to the family
7. Formation of public opinion
I completely agree with the Pope in regards to the growing hedonist secularism in the region. Materialism is a phenomenon that is growing exponentially in the lives of Latin Americans. Many Catholics in Latin America are so but only by name and do not recognize the basics of the faith, for instance, that it is a mortal sin to not attend Mass on Sundays. I never knew this until I came here and when I reverted to the faith and I happened to go to Catholics schools all my life. In my personal experience, religion is not a topic that comes up in conversation with friends or family if it is not when one needs something from God–only present in petition prayers. Catechesis is definitely poor and there are not many activities for adults or young people within the parishes. The shortage of priests and religious is overwhelming. Not to mention the increase in promiscuity and materialism among teenagers.
In Latin America, there is this perception that Americans are more liberal than Hispanics in many moral respects, but I would personally say that I have not encountered, for instance, more than a couple of friends back home that embraced chastity and that actually went to Church and had conservative values. Here, of course, you’re always going to have a liberal crowd in regards to morality, but I have been able to find here in America more young adults and young people who are not afraid to talk about chastity or their faith. This perception may have been true 20 years ago, but it is definitely not applicable anymore.
Let us pray for this region, for the “continent of hope” and for the upcoming Conference to take place in Brazil so that the leaders of the Church in the region can be guided by the Spirit to take a more important and decisive role in the lives of Latin Americans.