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Thursday, February 5, 2015

To the bishops of Greece: “Christian solidarity is a leaven for hope”

Vatican City, 5 February 2015 (VIS) - “Faced with the economic and financial crisis that has hit your country particularly hard, do not tire of exhorting trust in the future to all, resisting the culture of pessimism. The spirit of solidarity, that every Christian is called upon to bear witness to in the reality of everyday life, constitutes a leaven of hope”, writes the Pope in the text he handed to the prelates of the Holy Synod of Catholic Bishops of Greece this morning, at the end of their five-yearly “ad Limina” visit. He emphasises, in this context, that it is important for the bishops “to maintain constructive relations with the authorities of the country, as well as with the various members of society, so as to spread this outlook of solidarity … favouring dialogue and collaboration also with the other European countries”.

A key theme of the Pope's text is the need for fraternal communion between the prelates and, in turn, with the faithful in a “diakonia of fraternity”. This diakonia “on the one hand, postulates the stewardship and strengthening of cultural traditions and the Christian roots of Greek society, and on the other, requires openness to the cultural and spiritual values brought by many migrants, with a spirit of sincere acceptance towards these brothers and sisters, without distinction on the basis of race, language or religious belief. Your Christian communities, showing themselves to be truly united and at the same time open to encounter and acceptance, especially in relation to the most disadvantaged, can make a real contribution to transforming society, with the aim of making it more closely resemble the Gospel ideal. I rejoice in the knowledge that you are already engaged in this pastoral and charitable action, above all in favour of immigrants including those who are undocumented, many of whom are Catholic”.

In the same spirit, Francis encourages the Greek bishops to continue in their interpersonal dialogue with their Orthodox brothers, “with the aim of nurturing the necessary ecumenical journey, an indispensable prospect for a future of serenity and spiritual fecundity for your entire nation”. He also remarks that, in order to carry out the mission of evangelisation and human development, which the Church in Greece is called upon to perform, a “generous and motivated clergy” is essential. He encourages the promotion of “vocational pastoral care”, to deal with the insufficient number of priests, and urges the bishops “to transmit to the priests in your dioceses, many of whom are elderly, all my affection and appreciation for their apostolic zeal despite their limited means”. Similarly, he mentions the valuable contribution made by consecrated persons, notwithstanding the difficulties they face, and emphasises that in order to revitalise Christian communities it is necessary to fully acknowledge and promote the role of laypersons and to increase “the presence of ecclesial movements and associations … always working in keeping with the guidelines of the particular Churches and well integrated in the dioceses and parishes”. With regard to the family, the Holy Father insists on the need for programmes in preparation for marriage and work on the Christian formation of the new generations. He indicates the importance of underlining, “with words and actions, that the presence and participation of the elderly in social life is indispensable for the good progress of a population”.

“Dear brothers in the episcopate”, he concludes, “I wish to express my acknowledgement of the work of evangelisation that, despite many difficulties, you are carrying out in Greece. The legal recognition of the Catholic Church on the part of the competent authorities is an event of great importance, that will help you to look to the future with greater serenity, making efforts today with trustful dynamism and the enthusiasm of those who are witnesses to the Risen Lord. I encourage you to persevere in your mission with evangelical joy”.

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