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Friday, November 18, 2005


VATICAN CITY, NOV 18, 2005 (VIS) - This morning, the Pope received prelates from the Czech Bishops' Conference who have just completed their five-yearly "ad limina" visit.

  In his address to them, the Holy Father affirmed that in his individual meetings with the prelates he had learned that the Church in the Czech Republic is "alive and well, and feels the call to be the leavening in a society that is secularized yet at the same time interested ... in the liberating but challenging message of the Gospel."

  Benedict XVI expressed the view that "the material and spiritual devastation of the earlier regime has left your fellow citizens, now that they have reacquired complete freedom, with a yearning to make up for lost time, pushing ahead without, perhaps, giving sufficient attention to the importance of spiritual values which give fortitude and consistency to civil and material progress."

  Your communities, he went on, "already provide a solid testimony that attracts no small number of people, also from the world of culture. This is a sign of hope for the formation of a mature laity, one that knows how to shoulder its ecclesial responsibilities.

  After giving thanks to God because priests and religious are "active and hard-working, disciplined and united," the Pope added that, although this "is a reason for consolation, it should not lead us to forget other aspects that give rise to understandable concern. In the first place, the lack of priests," which "rightly induces you to dedicate special attention to vocational pastoral care . Also from this point of view, commitment to the formation of solid Christian families is particularly important for the life of the Church."

  The Holy Father laid emphasis on the importance of the laity's participation "in parish activities, and their introduction to a rich and healthy liturgical life." He continued: "The Christian community is a grouping of people with their own rules, a living body that, in Jesus, exists in the world to bear witness to the strength of the Gospel. It is, then, a group of brothers and sisters who have no goals of power or of selfish interest, but who joyfully live the charity of God, which is Love.

  "In such a context," he added, "the State should have no difficulty in recognizing in the Church a counterpart that in no way prejudices its own function at the service of citizens. Indeed, the Church undertakes her activities in the religious sphere, enabling believers to express their faith, yet without invading the area of competence of the civil authorities. ... As is known, the Church does not seek privileges, but only the opportunity to carry out her mission. When this right is recognized, it is really the whole of society that benefits."

  Benedict XVI concluded by exhorting the Czech prelates to "continue ecumenical dialogue. I know such dialogue is intense, as is the dialogue with all citizens in the cultural field on the fundamental values upon which all civil coexistence is based."
AL/.../CZECH REPUBLIC                            VIS 20051118 (510)

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