Vatican City, 2 December 2013 (VIS) – Pope Francis today received in audience a group of prelates from the Bishops' Conference of the Netherlands on their “ad limina” visit. The Holy Father focused on how to accompany those who suffer from “spiritual emptiness” and who seek the meaning of life. “Listen to them”, he said, “to help them share in the hope, joy, and capacity to carry on that Jesus Christ gives us”.
“The Church”, he continued, “not only proposes immutable moral truths and attitudes which go against the grain, but also proposes them as the key to the good of humanity and social development. Christians have the mission of taking up this challenge. The education of consciences therefore becomes a priority, especially through the formation of critical judgement, in order to have a positive approach to social realities: superficial judgement and resignation to indifference can thus be avoided”.
In the society of the Netherlands, “strongly characterised by secularism”, the Pope invited the prelates to “be present both in public debate in all spheres which affect humanity, to make visible God's mercy and his tenderness to every living creature. … As I have often stated, … the Church enlarges not by proselytism but by attraction. She is sent everywhere to awaken, reawaken and maintain hope! This brings us to the importance of encouraging the faithful to seize opportunities for dialogue, to be present in those places where the future is decided; they will thus be able to bring their contribution into the debates on important social matters regarding, for instance, the family, marriage and the end of life”.
“In a country rich in many respects, poverty affects a growing number of people. Make the most of the generosity of the faithful to bring the light and compassion of Christ where He is awaited, and especially among the most marginalised people”, the Pope continued. Furthermore, Catholic schools, which provide a solid education for the young, must continue to favour their human and spiritual formation, in a spirit of dialogue and brotherhood with those who do not share their faith”.
He went on to reconfirm the importance of “advancing along the path of ecumenism”, and reminded the bishops that the future and the vitality of the Church in the Netherlands depend also on priestly and religious vocations, stressing the importance of being close to priests, of listening to and guiding them as necessary. “Do not forget to go towards those who do not approach you; some of them, unfortunately, are disappointed in their efforts”.
“In particular”, he added, “I wish to express my compassion and to ensure my closeness in prayer to every victim of sexual abuse, and to their families; I ask you to continue to support them along the painful path of healing, that they have undertaken with courage”.