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Magisterial Documents: Ecclesia in America

Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia In America On The Encounter With The Living Jesus Christ: The Way To Conversion, Communion And Solidarity In America
January 22, 1999
The full document is available on the internet.

Brief Introduction

The Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America is John Paul II’s concluding reflection on the Synod of Bishops, which met in the Vatican from November 16 to December 12, 1997 addressing the status quo of the Catholic Church in the Americas.

The document demonstrates that Scripture-centered evangelization is authentic and effective. The document’s core statement can be found in number 66: "The vital core of the new evangelization must be a clear and unequivocal proclamation of the person of Jesus Christ, that is, the preaching of his name, his teaching, his life, his promise of the Kingdom which he has gained for us by his Pascal Mystery.”

Core Marian Passages

We encounter Jesus through Mary

11 At the birth of Jesus, the Magi came from the East to Bethlehem and “saw the child with Mary his Mother” (Mt 2:11). At the beginning of his public life, at the marriage of Cana, when the Son of God works the first of his signs, awakening faith in the disciples (cf. Jn 2:11), it is Mary who intervenes and directs the servants towards her Son in these words: “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). In this regard I once wrote that “the Mother of Christ presents herself as the spokeswoman of her Son's will, pointing out those things which must be done so that the salvific power of the Messiah may be manifested”. For this reason Mary is the sure path to our meeting with Christ. Devotion to the Mother of the Lord, when it is genuine, is always an impetus to a life guided by the spirit and values of the Gospel.

How can we fail to emphasize the role which belongs to the Virgin Mary in relation to the pilgrim Church in America journeying towards its encounter with the Lord? Indeed, the Most Blessed Virgin “is linked in a special way to the birth of the Church in the history ... of the peoples of America; through Mary they came to encounter the Lord.”

Throughout the continent, from the time of the first evangelization, the presence of the Mother of God has been strongly felt, thanks to the efforts of the missionaries. In their preaching, “the Gospel was proclaimed by presenting the Virgin Mary as its highest realization. From the beginning — invoked as Our Lady of Guadalupe — Mary, by her motherly and merciful figure, was a great sign of the closeness of the Father and of Jesus Christ, with whom she invites us to enter into communion.”

The appearance of Mary to the native Juan Diego on the hill of Tepeyac in 1531 had a decisive effect on evangelization. Its influence greatly overflows the boundaries of Mexico, spreading to the whole Continent. America, which historically has been, and still is, a melting-pot of peoples, has recognized in the mestiza face of the Virgin of Tepeyac, “in Blessed Mary of Guadalupe, an impressive example of a perfectly inculturated evangelization”. Consequently, not only in Central and South America, but in North America as well, the Virgin of Guadalupe is venerated as Queen of all America.

With the passage of time, pastors and faithful alike have grown increasingly conscious of the role of the Virgin Mary in the evangelization of America. In the prayer composed for the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops, Holy Mary of Guadalupe is invoked as “Patroness of all America and Star of the first and new evangelization”. In view of this, I welcome with joy the proposal of the Synod Fathers that the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother and Evangelizer of America, be celebrated throughout the continent on December 12. It is my heartfelt hope that she, whose intercession was responsible for strengthening the faith of the first disciples (cf. Jn 2:11), will by her maternal intercession guide the Church in America, obtaining the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as she once did for the early Church (cf. Acts 1:14), so that the new evangelization may yield a splendid flowering of Christian life. 

76 [Lord Jesus Christ], Teach us to love your Mother, Mary, as you loved her. 
Give us strength to proclaim your word with courage in the work of the new evangelization, 
so that the world may know new hope. 
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America, pray for us! 


Introduction (1)
How the Synod Assembly came about (2)
The theme of the Assembly (3)
The celebration of the Assembly as an experience of encounter (4)
Contributing to the unity of the continent (5)
In the context of the new evangelization (6)
With the presence and help of the Lord (7)

Encounters with the Lord in the New Testament (8)
Personal encounters and community encounters (9)
Encountering Christ in the time of the Church (10)
We encounter Jesus through Mary (11)
Places of encounter with Christ (12)

The situation of the men and women of America and their encounter with the Lord (13)
The Christian identity of America (14)
The fruits of holiness in America (15)
Popular piety (16)
The Eastern Catholic presence (17)
The Church in the field of education and social action (18)
Growing respect for human rights (19)
The phenomenon of globalization (20)
Growing urbanization (21)
The burden of external debt (22)
Corruption (23)
The drug trade (24)
Ecological concern (25)

The urgency of the call to conversion (26)
The social dimension of conversion (27)
Continuing conversion (28)
Guided by the Holy Spirit to a new way of living (29)
The universal call to holiness (30)
Jesus, the one way to holiness (31)
Penance and reconciliation (32)

The Church, sacrament of communion (33)
Christian initiation and communion (34)
The Eucharist as center of communion with God and with each other (35)
The Bishops as builders of communion (36)
Deeper communion between the particular Churches (37)
Fraternal communion with the Eastern Catholic Churches (38)
The priesthood as a sign of unity (39)
Promoting vocations (40)
Renewing parishes (41)
Permanent deacons (42)
Consecrated Life (43)
The Lay Faithful and the Renewal of the Church (44)|
The dignity of women (45)
Challenges facing Christian families (46)
Young people, the hope of the future (47)
Leading children to encounter Christ (48)
Elements of communion with other Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities (49)
The Church's relations with Jewish communities (50)

Solidarity, the fruit of communion (52)
The Church's teaching, a statement of the demands of conversion (53)
The Church's social doctrine (54)
The globalization of solidarity (55)
Social sins which cry to heaven (56)
The ultimate foundation of human rights (57)
Preferential love for the poor and the outcast (58)
Foreign debt (59)
The fight against corruption (60)
The drug problem (61)
The arms race (62)
The culture of death and a society dominated by the powerful (63)
Discrimination against indigenous peoples and Americans of African descent (64)
The question of immigrants (65)

Sent by Christ (66)
Jesus Christ, the “good news” and the prime evangelizer (67)
The encounter with Christ spurs evangelization (68)
The importance of catechesis (69)
The evangelization of culture (70)
Evangelizing centers of education (71)
Evangelization through the media (72)
The challenge of the sects (73)
The mission ad gentes (74)

With hope and gratitude (75)
Prayer to Jesus Christ for the families of America (76)

© This material has been compiled by Danielle M. Peters, S.T.D.
Copyright is reserved for The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute.
Most recently updated in 2019.

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