Popular piety, liturgy key for Latin American Church, Pope says

By  Sarah Delaney, Catholic News Service
  • April 13, 2011
VATICAN CITY - Processions, shrines and other forms of popular piety common to Latin American countries should be encouraged but supported by solid faith and adherence to liturgy, Pope Benedict XVI said.

The popular expression of the Catholic faith “is rooted in the very beginning of the evangelization of that land,” and so should be respected but also guided, the Pope said April 8 during a meeting with members of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

The theme of the commission gathering was: “The impact of popular piety on the evangelization of Latin America.”

Pope Benedict said that the many displays of popular piety that are so ingrained in Latin American culture must be considered an essential part of the new evangelization undertaken by the bishops of Central and South America and the Caribbean.

“Properly accompanied,” the Pope said, these simple expressions of faith can “create a fruitful encounter with God” as well as increased devotion to the Virgin Mary, the Pope and the Church itself.

Pope Benedict emphasized, however, that real faith must be the source of popular piety, “so that it is not reduced to a simple cultural expression of a particular region.”

He said that Church liturgy should be the framework for any popular manifestation, which could, in turn, illustrate and make more understandable the various aspects of the liturgy.

The Pope said he was pleased by the increasing use of lectio divina, or using specific verses of the Bible as the inspiration for prayer, in church and in Catholic communities.

He said that Latin American people throughout the centuries had showed a “rich and profound popular religiosity” that was expressed in their celebrations of the liturgical year and in the many shrines marking the infancy, Passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The people of Latin America also show a particular devotional to the Virgin Mary, who since the time of the first evangelization was considered an “inexhaustible source of hope,” the Pope said.

Pope Benedict also warned of “deviant forms of popular religiosity” that are not based on a deep inner faith and could become “irrational” like forms of superstition.