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from issue no. 04 - 2007

The General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Episcopate

by Stefania Falasca

In October of 2005, during the Bishops’ Synod, Benedict XVI, meeting some South American cardinals, expressed the wish for the fifth General Conference of the Latin American Episcopate to take place in a Marian shrine. «Aparecida», answered the cardinals, «is the most frequented Marian shrine in Brazil». And the Pope: «You meet there. And I’ll be there». The ecclesial gathering at Aparecida, from the 13 to 31 May, deals with the topic approved last July by Pope Benedict XVI: “Disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ because in Him people have life. I am the way, the truth and the life (John 14, 6)”. There will 266 participants counting members, guests, observers and experts.
It is the second time that the General Conference will have been held in Brazil. In 1955 (25 July-4 August), in Rio de Janeiro, the first General Conference of the Latin American Episcopate took place to discuss: “Vocations and religious instruction”. On that occasion the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM) was instituted by the wish of Pope Pius XII. The second Conference was held in Colombia, in Medellín, in 1968 (28 August-6 September), on the topic: “The Church in the actual transformation of Latin America in the light of Vatican Council II”. Pope Paul VI was present at its opening, in his only visit to the South American continent. The third General Conference was held in Mexico, in Puebla, in 1979 (27 January-13 February), on the topic: “Evangelization in the present and the future of Latin America”. Pope John Paul II attended, at the beginning of his pontificate, and it was the first of his 104 international pilgrimages.
The fourth Conference was held in Santo Domingo, in 1992 (12 October-28 October), the 500th anniversary of the “presence of the Gospel” in Latin America. Keynote topic: “New evangelization, human advancement and Christian culture”. Pope John Paul II again participated.

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