U.S. Catholic leaders gather in Miami

Hispanic Catholic community leaders and a large high-profile delegation of the U.S. Catholic Church discussed issues related to family, education and the need to preserve religious freedoms at a conference in Miami over the weekend.

The Seventh National Conference of the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL) opened Friday at Biscayne Bay’s Marriott Hotel with Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganó, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States.

The conference called on Christians to continue carrying the traditional Gospel message by using modern means . The opening talks were followed by a Mass at the Ermita of the Lady of Charity.

“Evangelization has always been about taking the Gospel to people who know nothing about Christianity or the faith,” said Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski. “The ‘New Evangelization’ is about talking to people who think they know about Christianity in a new way so they discover once again the joy of being a Christian.”

Manny García-Tuñón, the founding member of CALL and president of the Miami chapter, reiterated the need to address topics relevant to the community, such as immigration and education. He said social networks could be allies in transmitting the message of the New Evangelization, even though technology might be a challenge to the unity of the family.

“We Hispanics are called to live our faith in a spirit of charity, not only at home and at church, but also at the workplace,” said García-Tuñón, who considers that “religion is personal but does not have to be kept private.”

Those words led to one of the most important debates of Friday’s opening session at Biscayne’s Marriott — the need to defend religious freedom.

“We Americans seldom think of religious freedom because it is part of the air we breathe,” said professor Robert A. Destro, of Columbus School of Law in Washington. “At this moment the government is demanding religious institutions offer health coverage that includes abortion,” he said, highlighting disagreement among Catholic values and new measures that are part of the health care law promoted by the Obama administration.

Among the religious leaders who participated in the conference , were Bishop Joe Vásquez, of Austin, Texas; Bishop Octavio Cisneros, of Brooklyn, New York; Bishop Fernando Isern, of Pueblo, Colorado; the Auxiliary Bishop of Phoenix, Arizona, Eduardo Narváez; the archbishop of Los Angeles, José H. Gómez; Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, and the envoy from the Apostolic Nuncio, Viganó,.