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Thursday, April 7, 2011


VATICAN CITY, 7 APR 2011 (VIS) - This morning the Holy Father received in audience a group of bishops of the Syro-Malabar rite, on their "ad limina" visit.

  At the beginning of his discourse, the Pope remembered cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, C.SS.R., major archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly of the Syro-Malabars, who died last Friday 1 April at the age of 83.

  Benedict XVI, addressing the prelates in English, said that their visit to Rome was "a precious opportunity to give thanks to God for the gift of communion in the apostolic faith and in the life of the Spirit which unites you among yourselves and with your people".

  "Each Bishop, for his part", he continued, "is called to be a minister of unity in his particular church and within the universal Church. This responsibility is of special importance in a country like India where the unity of the Church is reflected in the rich diversity of her rites and traditions. I encourage you to do all you can to continue to foster the communion between yourselves and all Catholic Bishops throughout the world, and to be the living expression of that fellowship among your priests and faithful".

  Recalling St. Paul's "gentle command" for brotherly love, the Pope emphasised that "within this mystery of loving communion, a privileged expression of sharing in the divine life is through sacramental marriage and family life. The rapid and dramatic changes which are a part of contemporary society throughout the world bring with them not only serious challenges, but new possibilities to proclaim the liberating truth of the Gospel message to transform and elevate all human relationships".

  The Holy Father affirmed that the support of the bishops, priests and communities "for the sound and integral education of young people in the ways of chastity and responsibility will not only enable them to embrace the true nature of marriage, but will also benefit Indian culture as a whole". He emphasised that "the Church can no longer count on the support of society at large to promote the Christian understanding of marriage as a permanent and indissoluble union ordered to procreation and the sanctification of the spouses", and added, "Let your preaching and catechesis in this field be patient and constant".

  Referring to "the various communities of men and women religious who devote themselves to the service of God and their neighbour", the Pope underlined that "the vocation to religious life and the pursuit of perfect charity is attractive in every age, but it should be nourished by a constant spiritual renewal which is to be fostered by superiors who devote great care to the human, intellectual and spiritual formation of their fellow religious".

  "Furthermore, by its nature, formation is never completed, but is ongoing and must be an integral part of the daily life of each individual and community. Much needs to be done in this area, utilising the many resources available in your Church, above all through deeper training in the practice of prayer, the particular spiritual and liturgical traditions of the Syro-Malabar rite, and the intellectual demands of a solid pastoral practice".

  Benedict XVI concluded by encouraging the bishops to "plan effectively for such a solid ongoing formation, so that religious men and women continue to be powerful witnesses to the presence of God in the world and to our eternal destiny, so that the complete gift of self to God through religious life may shine with all its beauty and purity before men".
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