Faith in trying times
June 22, 2021
13th Sunday in OT (B)
June 22, 2021

Church in Latin America, Caribbean meet to discuss ongoing challenges

The first Ecclesial Assembly of Latin America and the Caribbean will take place November 21 to 28, 2021 at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico.

“It is the first time that such a church meeting takes place. It is not a conference of Latin American bishops like the previous one, most recently in Aparecida. It is an encounter of God’s people: lay people, religious, priests, bishops, the whole pilgrim of God. We pray, we talk, we think, we discuss, we seek the will of God,” Pope Francis said in the video message January 24 on the occasion of the presentation of the assembly.

Under the theme All of us are Missionary Disciples going forth, the Ecclesial Assembly seeks to answer the following question: ‘What are the new challenges for the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean, in light of the Fifth General Conference of Aparecida, 2007?’

The upcoming assembly will be held simultaneously in a hybrid or mixed form, some will be present in Mexico City while others will be in each of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM) member countries.

A two-year process

Meeting for its 38th General Assembly, which was held online from May 18–21, 2021, CELAM approved with an overwhelming majority its organisational restructuring guidelines, which are expected to make its services more effective for the People of God in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The renewal process started in 2019 involving CELAM’s 22-member Episcopal Conferences with the aim of making the Church in the region more missionary, synodal and outgoing, as indicated by Pope Francis.


Listening to the cry of the Earth and of the poor

Remembering that the Assembly was held in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Latin American and Caribbean prelates are aware of its effects on the strong inequality that the continent is experiencing, so they ratify their commitment to “exercise collegial and synodal discernment through of an attentive listening to the ‘ineffable groans’ of the Holy Spirit, in the cries of the People of God and enlightened by the gospel.

“As shepherds of the People of God we want to put one ear to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor with the awareness that everything is connected, and the other ear to the Gospel of the Kingdom of God with the hope of coming out of this crisis together and better ”, reads the letter, in which they recall the words of the Bishop of Rome: “we are all in the same boat….no one is saved alone”.


The four prophetic “dreams” for the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean

Recalling the four prophetic “dreams” — “social, cultural, ecological and ecclesial”—proposed by Pope Francis in Querida Amazonia, CELAM expresses the wish for a Church that “encourages the continent to fight for the rights of the poorest and for a more just society”; “preserves its cultural heritage in an intercultural dialogue”; “safeguards its natural beauty and the value of life”; and for a Church in which Christian communities are able “give clear witness to the Risen Lord” while preserving its “Latin American and Caribbean face”.

Participate in the listening process

The Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) has begun preparing for this synodal event by forming an Animation Team composed of Bishop Gerard County CSSp and Fr Collin Jackson from the Diocese of Kingstown; AEC General Secretary Fr Donald Chambers; Deacon David Popo, Provincial representative for the Archdiocese of Castries; Deacon Peter Espeut, the Provincial representative for the Archdioceses of Kingston and Nassau; AEC Administrative Assistant Lauren Branker; Taresa Best-Downes, Episcopal Delegate for Youth and Shanice Harrigan, Archdiocese of Port of Spain; and Paul Tjon Kiem Sang of the Diocese of Paramaribo, Suriname, who are all responsible for engaging persons to participate in the listening process and promoting the event throughout the region.

Each provincial representative is responsible for selecting ten or more persons to participate in the listening process which begins the first week in July. The selected persons will be trained on how to use the platform to access the listening process.

To participate in the listening process, sign up via:


CELAM is an organism of communion, reflection, collaboration and service as a sign and instrument of collegial affection in perfect communion with the universal Church and with its visible head, the Roman Pontiff. It was created in 1955. Based in Bogotá (Colombia), after the Second Vatican Council (1962–65) it has extended its scope.

CELAM meets every four years for its Ordinary Assembly in which the presidents of the 22-member Bishops’ Conferences, which are located from Mexico to Cape Horn, including the Caribbean and the Antilles, outline its pastoral guidelines and elect its directive bodies.

Periodically, it also holds general conferences on major issues, the first of which was held in 1968 in Medellín, Colombia. The last one was the Aparecida Conference in 2007.