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5th International Day of Prayer, Amsterdam 2003

Excerpt of the Conference by
His Excellency Msgr. Raoul Scarrone,
Bishop of Florida, Uruguay

Mary, Mother of the Latin American People

For the third time already, His Excellency Raoul Scarone, Bishop of the Florida Diocese in Uruguay, joyfully participated at the Day of Prayer.

In his providence God wanted me to represent the people of Latin America on the 5th International Day of Prayer in Amsterdam. How could I refuse such a wish? For the evangelization of Latin America was deeply marked by Mary’s presence.

Today I thank God by recalling the words of the Magnificat: “See, from now onwards all generations will call me blessed.” (Lk. 1,48)
These prophetic words did come true when the gospel reached the American continent in 1492, more than 500 years ago, especially in the Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries. It was the springtime of Renaissance Europe and at the same time on our continent the springtime of our faith in Jesus Christ, the eternal Word of the Father and Son of Mary.

Nowadays half of all the Catholics live in Latin America: 510 million people. When God decided to reveal himself and to make known his plan of love and salvation, He chose, as we know, a young girl, Mary, to cooperate in this mystery of Gods mercy. It was Mary who through giving her ‘Fiat’ at the Annunciation, opened for us the way and created in a new way the possibility for the Church and each of us to hear Gods plans, to give our own answer and to cooperate with them.

Mary is essential in the mystery of the incarnation. Through her, God became flesh and part of a people. She is the link between heaven and earth. Without Mary the gospel looses its body, becomes deformed and changes into spiritual rationalism. An evangelization that ignores Mary’s enriching presence, deforms the inner force of the Christian mystery of salvation.

In Latin America the most holy Virgin Mary is present
and acts in different ways.

Whether at remote places or at the famous sanctuaries visited by millions of pilgrims, we look up to her, who alone can lead us to her Son. She gives us a serene trust, the gentle strength of children who know themselves closer to God, because this Mother is supporting them.
In many countries of our continent, Marian devotion is part of the identity of our people, as is the case with our Lady of Guadelupe in Mexico, in whom is brought to expression the deep connection between the Christian faith and the culture of our peoples.

When the gospel was proclaimed,
Mary was considered to be its ultimate realization.

From the moment Mary appeared in Guadelupe, she represented the merciful countenance, the great sign of God’s and Christ’s proximity, inviting us to enter into communion with them.
Mary was also the voice that called for unity among people and nations. The Marian sanctuaries on this continent, like Guadelupe, are signs where the faith of the Church meets the history of Latin America.
That’s why the people know that Mary can only be found within the Catholic Church. As a result, Marian devotion often formed the strong link between the Church and those communities that had to go without pastoral care.
The faithful recognized the Church as the family which has Mary, the Mother of God, as its Mother. The Church confirms their evangelic intuition that Mary is the perfect Christian example, the ideal image of the Church.

Marian devotion has undergone an astounding development in America during its history of 500 years. And one can say that Latin Americans are historically a Marian people and in spite of all the vicissitudes have remained faithful to their devotion to the virgin Mary. A great majority of our people shows its love, its dedication and devotion by invoking Mary under different titles and portraying her in different ways. And for some Christians these Marian images are the most important and even the only means through which they express their religiosity.
Led by Mary, the Christians traverse history with all its sufferings and conquests. Many names and places recall the memory of Mary and her mysteries: her Assumption, the Immaculate Conception, the Incarnation, the Rosary, Bethlehem, the Carmel, the Purification, etc.
They make that the people can turn their eyes heavenwards and meet the maternal face of Mary who shows us the maternal and merciful face of the Father, revealed in Jesus, his Son.

The mystery of Mary takes up a prominent place in the religious experience of Latin America because the people want to be Christian, which confirms the words of pope Paul VI: “If we want to be Christian, we need to be Marian.”
By encouraging the faithful to go to the Virgin Mary and by a better understanding of who she is, we can remain faithful to Christ and realize the new evangelization to which we are committed.
In this time in which the Church of Latin America is called to a new mission, to undertake a ‘new evangelization’, the Church meditates on Mary, on her humble and audacious faith and on her virginity, which made her fruitful to illuminate the world. She continues to enlighten us in the night of our faith, as the Star of the evangelization.

Brothers and sisters, how much Mary can give to Latin America! Since the very moment of its discovery, on October 12, 1492, the conquistadors have brought her to us and Mary and America have found each other.
The simple people were enchanted by her. The love of Mary conquered the hearts of the poor and they expressed it through their songs, images, prayers and especially the rosary, by building sanctuaries, through their ceaseless supplications and by putting their hope in her.
Just like millions of people on our continent, Mary lived in a small village and led the same life as they do. From the very beginning America has therefore conversed with Mary and called upon her, declared her its love and made known its needs, talked about her and with her. She is the Virgin of sorrows and of joy. Even in the smallest dwelling they share their life with her and find light and strength in this devotion. Therefore she moves among us like a soft breeze, without which we cannot live.

When we meditate on the image of Mary, I think that within us a desire arises to be better human beings. When we direct our gaze to her, we want to amend our mistakes and to purify all that has been soiled. It is therefore such a great joy for us when the Church makes us meditate on the Image of Mary.
As the Church of now and always, we want to safeguard faithfully what Jesus has entrusted to us when from the cross He gave us in the person of John, Mary as our Mother. Twenty centuries have passed since Christ said: “This is your mother”. With these words he gave the Church a mission to accomplish. Therefore now and always the Church invites us to recognize Mary as our Mother.
And with the blessed image of the Lady of All Nations before our eyes, I say to each of you personally the same words as Jesus: “This is your mother”. When we meditate on her, the wish arises to be better human beings and being the Church that directs its eyes towards Mary we discover again our calling as Christians: the Church senses that Mary is her role model. It wants to love the whole of humanity, all the peoples with Mary’s purity. Like Mary the Church wants to be attentive to the word of God, being ready to do His will.

God’s Church grows day and night because it carries, like Mary, the Messiah and because the Spirit makes it fruitful. During the evangelization of our peoples, Mary was presented as the highest realization of the gospel. It is therefore that the Church of Latin America has the calling to be Mary in this world and feels called upon to be, in the same way as she was, servant, missionary, faithful and beautiful without stain and immaculate. She wants to be without wounds and without resentment, not domineering but Virgin and Mother, full of joy and ready to serve.

The mission of Mary was to bring Christ into the world. Let us ask today that we also, through the example of our lives, may give Jesus to others. He is the only One who can give peace, solidarity and strength so that this world, this society will be more lovable, worthier and more just and already anticipates down here ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ which God has prepared for those who like Mary have remained faithful,