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Home : News : Nation and World
Latin American church leaders pledge to promote family's role in society
Catholic News Service photo
A Catholic man in San Salvador, El Salvador, prays during Mass in this 2010 photo. Latin American church leaders say they are committed to strengthening their work in promoting the role of the family in society.
Catholic News Service photo
A Catholic man in San Salvador, El Salvador, prays during Mass in this 2010 photo. Latin American church leaders say they are committed to strengthening their work in promoting the role of the family in society.
Catholic News Service

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — Church workers and bishops from across Latin America emerged from a first-of-its-kind regional congress Aug. 9 pledging to strengthen the church's work in promoting the role of the family in society.

Seeking to renew their commitment to promoting family values, representatives of 22 bishops' conferences from Latin America and the Caribbean attended the First Latin American Congress of Family Pastoral Agents in Panama, according to the Latin American bishops' council, CELAM.

"Enlightened by the Holy Spirit and inspired by the values of the Holy Family of Nazareth, we want to send to all families in Latin America, the Caribbean and around the world this message of hope," said a statement released at the conference's conclusion by CELAM's Department of Family Life and Youth.

The conference was aimed at reminding families to "live the values of the Gospel, to be certain that we are not alone and that together we can face the storms that threaten the identity and the mission of marriage, the family and life," the statement said.

Organizers called for the congress -- which will be followed by a series of smaller meetings in 2015 -- amid numerous social trends that have raised a red flag for the church. Among those changes are a rising number of divorces, fewer two-parent homes and a corresponding increase in the percentage of single-parent families.

"We are at a stage of change, which is generating new concepts, understandings, positions and actions facing the idea of family as society's primary cell," said a statement signed by five Latin American bishops and Father Antonio Jose Velazquez, executive secretary of the department.

The document said the church's pastoral mission needs to work more fervently to push the importance of the family unit as an agent of social development and influence governments as they consider public policies that affect the family structure.

"In general, what came out of (the congress) was a greater determination to do more to strengthen pastoral ministries for families overall," said Trinitarian Father Juan Molina, director of the U.S. bishops' office on Latin America. "One of those aspects includes more involvement with government to strengthen family life and marriage."

Father Molina said attendees raised a range of issues, from working on marriage laws to promoting better policies for family leave.

Central American and Mexican leaders raised the issue of immigration, including the surge in child migrants crossing into the U.S. from Mexico, which is separating families.

Other church leaders highlighted the trend in Latin America toward permitting same-sex marriages. Since 2009, Mexico City and three South American countries have passed laws legalizing the practice, putting the region only behind Western Europe in the number of countries where it is permitted.

CELAM's document said the church's influence on public policy has been sidelined by the rising influence of non-governmental organizations and international institutions, such as the United Nations.

The church is working against "strong campaigns by governments and international organizations in favor of contraception, abortion as a woman's right, sexual rights and reproductive awareness, and seeking legalizations of same-sex marriage."

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