WASHINGTON (November 10, 1997) -- The Bishops of the United States will invite all members of the Church to celebrate the Millennium with them by gathering for the fourth national Encuentro in the year 2000, following a vote today by their national meeting here.
The National Conference of Catholic unanimously agreed to the recommendation of their Hispanic Affairs Committee to convoke a national gathering in the Jubilee Year 2000 which celebrates the rich cultural diversity of the Church in the United States.
"Hispanics and Latinos are a tremendously important part of the Catholic Church in the United States with wonderful gifts of faith and spirituality to share," said Bishop Gerald Barnes of San Bernardino, Chairman of the Hispanic Affairs Committee. "These Encuentros have given them an opportunity to pray and share and listen to and with one another. As we begin the Third Millennium of Christianity, Hispanic Catholics in the United States want to gather once again with all their brothers and sisters in the Church to celebrate the cultural richness of the Catholic faith and to plan for new ways of evangelizing."
Encuentro IV will focus on a multicultural process to help better integrate Hispanics into the full life of the Church. Previous Encuentros were held in 1972, 1977, and in 1985. Encuentro III led to the development of a National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry, published by the Bishops in 1987.
It is estimated that in 1994, there were between 18.9 million and 21.6 million Catholics of Hispanic origin in the United States, or between 27.6 percent and 31.6 percent of the 59.8 million Catholics in total. It is estimated that within the next 25 years, Hispanics will constitute the majority of U.S. Catholics.
A subcommittee of the Hispanic Affairs Committee has already been formed to begin planning for the meeting in 2000. Bishop Gabino Zavala, Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles, has been named to chair the subcommittee. A national, culturally diverse steering committee, representing different ministries and national Catholic organizations, will be named soon.