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Friday, February 8, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 8 FEB 2008 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received prelates from the Episcopal Conference of Costa Rica, who have just completed their "ad limina" visit. This is the Costa Rican bishops' first meeting with the current Pontiff.

  "You have before you the task of seeking new ways to announce Christ in situations of rapid and often profound transformation, and of emphasising the missionary character of all pastoral activity", the Pope told the prelates. "In this perspective, the recent Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean held in Aparecida, Brazil, highlighted how welcoming and absorbing the message of the Gospel is something incumbent upon each individual and each generation, in the various circumstances and stages of their lives".

  "The people of Costa Rica", he said, "must constantly revitalise their ancient and deep Christian roots, their vigorous popular religiosity, and the Marian piety they hold so dear, that these things may bring the fruits of a life worthy of the disciples of Jesus".

  The Pope then went on to talk of Costa Rica's numerous priests "who are the bishop's main collaborators in his pastoral ministry", he said. For this reason they need "clear guidelines and criteria, constant formation, and support in the exercise of their ministry".

  "You well know", he went on, "the risks of lethargic and superficial faith when it has to face such snares as the proselytism of sects and pseudo-religious groups, the multiple promises of easy and immediate wellbeing, ... or the spread of ideologies which, while claiming to exalt human beings, actually debase them. In a situation such as this, it becomes ever more important to announce that 'man's great, true hope which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God - God Who has loved us and Who continues to love us'".

  "Male and female religious, and consecrated persons, have the duty of bearing a particularly active witness to this hope" said the Holy Father. "By their vocation, they are called to be a sign of the 'the mystery of the Kingdom of God already at work in history'".

  The Holy Father indicated that the laity must "also must participate in this mission, following their specific vocation". He also invited the bishops to express their gratitude to the laity "and to give them encouragement and constant attention" because "they are called to carry Christian values into the various areas of society: the world of work, of civil society and of politics".

  "You are right to be concerned at the increasing deterioration of the institution of the family, which has such grave repercussions on the fabric of society and on ecclesial life", Pope Benedict told the bishops. Consequently "it is necessary to promote the good of the family and to defend its rights, ... showing it your pastoral attention, and directly protecting and helping it in its difficulties".

  "Adequate pre-matrimonial catechesis is also of vital importance, as is an everyday presence to bring support into each home", said the Pope. He concluded by encouraging the prelates not to forget "those groups of couples and families who help one another to achieve their exalted and indispensable vocation", nor to overlook "the specific services that alleviate situations resulting from family break-ups, economic instability and domestic violence, of which women in particular are victims".
AL/.../COSTA RICA                            VIS 20080208 (570)

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