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Monday, November 28, 2011

EXERCISING THE PROPHETIC DIMENSION OF EPISCOPAL MINISTRY


VATICAN CITY, 26 NOV 2011 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received a group of prelates from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, at the end of their "ad limina" visit. Today's meeting was the first between the Pope and American bishops since the Holy Father's 2008 visit to the U.S. which, he said, "was intended to encourage the Catholics of America in the wake of the scandal and disorientation caused by the sexual abuse crisis of recent decades".

  "I wished to acknowledge personally the suffering inflicted on the victims and the honest efforts made both to ensure the safety of our children and to deal appropriately and transparently with allegations as they arise", he added. "It is my hope that the Church's conscientious efforts to confront this reality will help the broader community to recognise the causes, true extent and devastating consequences of sexual abuse, and to respond effectively to this scourge which affects every level of society. By the same token, just as the Church is rightly held to exacting standards in this regard, all other institutions, without exception, should be held to the same standards".

  The Holy Father then turned to consider another purpose of his 2008 trip, that of summoning "the Church in America to recognise, in the light of a dramatically changing social and religious landscape, the urgency and demands of a new evangelisation. ... Many of you have shared with me your concern about the grave challenges to a consistent Christian witness presented by an increasingly secularised society", he said. "I consider it significant, however, that there is also an increased sense of concern on the part of many men and women, whatever their religious or political views, for the future of our democratic societies. They see a troubling breakdown in the intellectual, cultural and moral foundations of social life, and a growing sense of dislocation and insecurity, especially among the young, in the face of wide-ranging societal changes.

  "Despite attempts to still the Church's voice in the public square, many people of good will continue to look to her for wisdom, insight and sound guidance in meeting this far-reaching crisis. The present moment can thus be seen, in positive terms, as a summons to exercise the prophetic dimension of your episcopal ministry by speaking out, humbly yet insistently, in defence of moral truth, and offering a word of hope, capable of opening hearts and minds to the truth that sets us free".

  "The obstacles to Christian faith and practice raised by a secularised culture also affect the lives of believers, leading at times to that 'quiet attrition' from the Church. ... Immersed in this culture, believers are daily beset by the objections, the troubling questions and the cynicism of a society which seems to have lost its roots, by a world in which the love of God has grown cold in so many hearts. Evangelisation thus appears not simply a task to be undertaken ad extra; we ourselves are the first to need re-evangelisation".

  The Holy Father expressed his appreciation at the progress made by the American episcopate in responding to these issues, and cited the examples of recent documents on faithful citizenship and the institution of marriage. He also thanked them for their efforts in implementing the revised translation of the Roman Missal, and their efforts "to ensure that this new translation will inspire an ongoing catechesis which emphasises the true nature of the liturgy and, above all, the unique value of Christ's saving sacrifice for the redemption of the world".

  Pope Benedict concluded: "A weakened sense of the meaning and importance of Christian worship can only lead to a weakened sense of the specific and essential vocation of the laity to imbue the temporal order with the spirit of the Gospel. America has a proud tradition of respect for the Sabbath; this legacy needs to be consolidated as a summons to the service of God's Kingdom and the renewal of the social fabric in accordance with its unchanging truth".
AL/                                    VIS 20111128 (680)

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