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Friday, May 14, 2010

AUTHENTIC WITNESSES TO JESUS CHRIST IN ALL SITUATIONS

VATICAN CITY, 13 MAY 2010 (VIS) - This evening the Holy Father met with the bishops of Portugal in the "Casa Nossa Senhora do Carmo" at the shrine of Fatima.

In his address to them Benedict XVI affirmed how "the Pope needs to open himself ever more fully to the mystery of the cross, embracing it as the one hope and the supreme way to gather in the Crucified One all his brothers and sisters in humanity. Obeying the word of God, he is called to live not for himself but for the presence of God in the world".

"In truth", he said, "the times in which we live demand a new missionary vigour on the part of Christians, who are called to form a mature laity, identified with the Church and sensitive to the complex transformations taking place in our world. Authentic witnesses to Jesus Christ are needed, above all in those human situations where the silence of the faith is most widely and deeply felt: among politicians, intellectuals, communications professionals who profess and promote a mono-cultural ideal, with disdain for the religious and contemplative dimension of life. Such circles contain many believers who are ashamed of their beliefs and who even give a helping hand to this type of secularism, which raises barriers before Christian inspiration. And yet, dear brothers, may all those who defend the faith in these situations, with courage, with a vigorous Catholic outlook and in fidelity to the Magisterium, continue to receive your help and your insightful encouragement in order to live out their Christian freedom as faithful lay men and women".

"What is decisive", the Pope told the prelates "is the ability to inculcate a true desire for holiness in all those engaged in the work of evangelisation, with the awareness that the results derive above all from our union with Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit.

"In fact" he added, "when many people consider that the Catholic faith is no longer the common patrimony of society, and see it as a seed threatened and obscured by the 'gods' and masters of this world, only with great difficulty can the faith touch the hearts of people by simple speeches or moral appeals, and even less by a generic call to Christian values. The courageous and integral appeal to principles is essential and indispensable; yet simply proclaiming the message does not penetrate to the depths of people's hearts, it does not touch their freedom, it does not change their lives. What attracts them, above all, is the encounter with believing persons who, through their faith, draw others to the grace of Christ by bearing witness to Him".

Turning then to consider the movements and new ecclesial communities, which he described as "new springtime" for the Church, the Holy Father said: "Thanks to their charisms, the radicality of the Gospel, the objective contents of the faith, the living flux of Church tradition, are all being communicated in a persuasive way and welcomed as a personal experience, as free adherence to the mystery of Christ".

He went on: "Naturally, it is necessary that these new groups should desire to live in the one Church, ... and submit themselves to the leadership of her bishops. It is they who must ensure the ecclesial nature of the movements".

As bishops, he explained, we "must feel responsibility for welcoming these impulses which are gifts for the Church and which give her new vitality, but, on the other hand, we must also help the movements to find the right way, correcting them ... with a spiritual and human understanding that is able to combine guidance, gratitude and a certain openness and willingness to learn".

In this Year for Priests, "rediscover, dear brothers, the role of the bishop as father, especially with regard to your priests. For all too long the responsibility of authority as a service aimed at the growth of others, primarily of priests, has been given second place. Priests are called to serve, in their pastoral ministry, and to be part of a pastoral activity of communion".

"This does not mean turning back to the past, nor a simple return to our origins; rather, it means recovering the original zeal, the joy of the initial Christian experience, of walking beside Christ like the disciples of Emmaus on the day of Easter, allowing His word to warm our hearts and His 'broken bread' to open our eyes to the contemplation of His countenance. Only in this way will the fire of charity blaze strongly enough to impel every Christian to become a source of light and life in the Church and among all men and women".

Closing his remarks to the bishops, the Pope asked them "to rekindle, as individuals and as a group, a sense of mercy and of compassion, in order to respond to grave social needs. New organisations must be established, and those already existing perfected, in order to respond creatively to all forms of poverty, including those experienced as a lack of meaning in life and an absence of hope".

He also praised their efforts "to assist dioceses most in need, especially in Portuguese-speaking countries. ... May difficulties, currently so deeply felt, not make you shrink from the logic of self-giving. May your witness as prophets of justice and peace, and defenders of the inalienable rights of the person continue in your country. Join your voice to the voices of the weakest, whom you have wisely helped to find a voice of their own, without ever being afraid of raising your voice on behalf of the oppressed, the downtrodden and the mistreated".

The meeting over, the Holy Father spent the night in the "Casa Nossa Senhora do Carmo".
PV-PORTUGAL/ VIS 20100514 (970)

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