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Monday, February 1, 2010


VATICAN CITY, 1 FEB 2010 (VIS) - At midday today Benedict XVI received prelates from the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, who have just completed their "ad limina" visit.

  The Pope noted how, "even amid the pressures of a secular age, there are many signs of living faith and devotion among the Catholics of England and Wales" in which context he mentioned "the enthusiasm generated by the visit of the relics of St. Therese, the interest aroused by the prospect of Cardinal Newman's beatification and the eagerness of young people to take part in pilgrimages and World Youth Days.

  "On the occasion of my forthcoming apostolic visit to Great Britain", he added, "I shall be able to witness that faith for myself and, as Successor of Peter, to strengthen and confirm it. During the months of preparation that lie ahead, be sure to encourage the Catholics of England and Wales in their devotion, and assure them that the Pope constantly remembers them in his prayers and holds them in his heart.

  "Your country", the Pope told the bishops, "is well known for its firm commitment to equality of opportunity for all members of society. Yet", he noted, "the effect of some of the legislation designed to achieve this goal has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs".

  The Holy Father also urged the prelates "to ensure that the Church's moral teaching be always presented in its entirety and convincingly defended. Fidelity to the Gospel in no way restricts the freedom of others; on the contrary, it serves their freedom by offering them the truth".

  "If the full saving message of Christ is to be presented effectively and convincingly to the world, the Catholic community in your country needs to speak with a united voice".

  "It is the truth revealed through Scripture and Tradition and articulated by the Church's Magisterium that sets us free", Benedict XVI explained. "Cardinal Newman realised this, and he left us an outstanding example of faithfulness to revealed truth by following that 'kindly light' wherever it led him, even at considerable personal cost. Great writers and communicators of his stature and integrity are needed in the Church today, and it is my hope that devotion to him will inspire many to follow in his footsteps.

  "In this 'Annus Sacerdotalis', I urge you to hold up to your priests his example of dedication to prayer, pastoral sensitivity towards the needs of his flock, and passion for preaching the Gospel. You yourselves should set a similar example. Be close to your priests, and rekindle their sense of the enormous privilege and joy of standing among the people of God as 'alter Christus'".

  And he went on: "Encourage the lay faithful to express their appreciation of the priests who serve them, and to recognise the difficulties they sometimes face on account of their declining numbers and increasing pressures. ... Help them to avoid any temptation to view the clergy as mere functionaries but rather to rejoice in the gift of priestly ministry, a gift that can never be taken for granted".

  The Pope concluded by referring to ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue, calling for generosity "in implementing the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution 'Anglicanorum Coetibus', so as to assist those groups of Anglicans who wish to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. I am convinced that, if given a warm and open-hearted welcome, such groups will be a blessing for the entire Church".
AL/.../ENGLAND:WALES                        VIS 20100201 (600)

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