Though it’s a point sometimes lost in American Catholic debate, the roughly seventy million Catholics in the United States represent just six percent of the global Catholic population of almost 1.2 billion. That would seem to imply the need for some attention to Catholic dynamics outside American airspace, and today the U.S. bishops made a nod in that direction, hearing a report on the 2007 assembly of the Latin American bishops in Aparecida, Brazil.
Archbishop Roberto Nieves Gonzalez of San Juan, Puerto Rico, tried to sum up the main points of the month-long gathering during an afternoon address to the spring meeting of the U.S. bishops in San Antonio, Texas.
Nieves covered a lot of ground, but he suggested that the lasting importance of Aparecida, the fifth general gathering of Latin American bishops since 1955, may be its missionary thrust. In their concluding document, the Latin American bishops suggested that the entire Christian life can be understood in terms of being a “disciple missionary.”
The signature idea of Aparecida was the “Great Continental Mission,” meaning a coordinated continent-wide missionary effort unfolding at the diocesan level.