WASHINGTON — Fourteen bishops representing the Catholic Church in Canada, Latin America and the United States concluded three days of prayer and dialogue at the 38th Meeting of the Bishops of the Church in America, Feb. 25. Gathering together after the two visits of Pope Francis to the region, the bishops spoke of a strong sense of fraternity and solidarity as they shared their pastoral experiences of being one Church in America.
Participating in the meeting were the elected officers of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Latin American Episcopal Council and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“Looking across the table, I saw brothers in Christ,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the USCCB. “My prayer is for all the people of God to see their neighbor, north to south, as their sister and brother in Christ.”
“This gathering of bishops is always an encouragement for our respective Conferences,” said Bishop Douglas Crosby, OMI, president of the CCCB. “We learn from one another; we support one another; we encourage one another. We are united in our desire to follow Christ faithfully.”
“The faithful are searching for a more dignified life for their families and we seek to accompany them,” said CELAM President Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez.
Despite the complexity of issues facing Catholics today and the distinct cultures within the Church, the bishops shared a common desire to invite everyone into “an encounter with Jesus Christ.” The bishops witnessed to how the love of Jesus heals and unifies. Their discussions were wide ranging. Immigration, evangelization of urban cultures, the rights of native peoples, physician assisted suicide, the danger of pornography, and the growing threat to religious freedom around the world were all on the agenda the first day.
On the second day, the bishops shared with each other the various projects underway in support of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. A particular focus was the topic of mercy in the Aparecida document. As one participant said, “the work is to reveal the presence of God and encourage prophets of mercy.” As the year unfolds, resources are being made available in each of the Conferences to help people live their faith in practical ways each day.
The final morning was spent in prayer together.
The Meeting of the Bishops of the Church in America is part of a series of informal gatherings, previously known as the Interamerican Meeting of Bishops, held every few years since 1967 to emphasize the unity of the Church in the Western Hemisphere. This year’s meeting was organized by the CCCB.