Vatican City, 12 November 2015 (VIS) – This morning the Pope received the bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Slovakia at the end of their five-yearly “ad Limina” visit. In the discourse he handed to them at the end of the audience he encouraged them to consider the phenomenon of migration as an opportunity for encounter, also recalling that the Church is called upon to proclaim and bear witness to the welcome of migrants in the context of observance of the law.
Francis begins his discourse by referring to the pastoral work of bishops and a situation characterised by rapid changes in many sectors of human life, affected also by the phenomenon of globalisation. A situation, he writes, in which “at times we perceive threats to less populous nations, but at the same time elements that can offer new opportunities. One opportunity, which has become a sign of the times, is the phenomenon of migration, which demands to be understood and confronted with sensitivity and a sense of justice. The Church is required to proclaim and bear witness to the welcome of the migrant in a spirit of charity and respect for the dignity of the human person, in the context of the necessary observance of the law”.
“Faced with the prospect of an increasingly extensive multicultural environment, it is necessary to assume attitudes of mutual respect to promote encounter. It is to be hoped that the Slovak people will maintain their cultural identity and heritage of ethical and spiritual values, strongly linked to the Catholic tradition. In this way they will be able to open up without fear to exchange on the broadest continental and global horizon, contributing to a sincere and fruitful dialogue, also on themes of vital importance such as the dignity of human life and the essential function of the family. Today, more than ever, it is necessary to enlighten the path of peoples with Christian principles, seizing the opportunities that the current situation offers to develop an evangelisation that, using a new language, makes Christ's message easier to understand. For this reason it important for the Church to give hope, so that all the present changes may be transformed into a renewed encounter with Christ, that guides the people towards authentic progress”.
The Pope expresses his appreciation for the prelates' work with families, which face many difficulties, and reiterates the importance of integral family pastoral ministry at diocesan and national levels, including “adequate accompaniment for all families, including those where members are not present, especially if there are children”. In this regard it is essential to pay special attention to the young, “the hope of the Church and of society”.
The paternal care of bishops for the priests, their main collaborators in pastoral ministry, is another of the themes considered by Francis, who insists on the need for “well-structured programmes of continuing formation in the fields of theology, spirituality, pastoral ministry and social doctrine of the Church, enabling them to become competent evangelisers”. He adds, “Indeed, for the majority of the People of God, they are the principal channel through which the Gospel passes, and also offer the most immediate image through which the mystery of the Church is encountered”.
The Church, “sign and tool of the unity of men with God and with each other, is called upon to be the house and school of communion, in which one learns to appreciate and welcome positive qualities in others”, remarks the Holy Father at the end of his discourse, emphasising that this attitude is also very useful with reference to the good contact it is necessary to re-establish in Slovakia between pastors and consecrated persons, better appreciating the valid contribution of all men and women religious to pastoral ministry. “At the same time”, he noted, “the Church in your country must carry forth the pastoral care of the Rom, through extensive evangelisation that seeks to reach all these people who, unfortunately, continue to live in some ways separated from the rest of society”.