21-September-2012 -- Vatican Information Service |

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France, Educator Of Peoples, Must Respond To The Challenge Of Secularised Society

Vatican City, 21 September 2012 (VIS) - This morning, Benedict XVI received prelates of the Conference of Bishops of France, recalling that their country "has a long spiritual and missionary tradition, such that John Paul II called it the 'educator of peoples'. The challenges of a widely secularised society now call us courageously and optimistically to seek a bold and creative response, by presenting the permanent newness of the Gospel".

"With this perspective and in order to encourage the faithful of the entire world," he continued, "I have called this Year of Faith ... inviting an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the only Saviour of the world". The Pontiff then went on to enumerate the duties of the bishop who must be a "good shepherd" toward his faithful and priests, and he called upon them to maintain a "special care for their priests, particularly those who have been recently ordained and those who are elderly or in need". The Pope praised the initiatives of the French prelates in spiritually, intellectually, and materially assisting their closest collaborators. He also recalled the scarcity of "workers for the Gospel in our days. This is why," he said, "it is necessary to pray, and to ensure others pray, for this intention, while I encourage you to follow the formation of seminarians attentively".

"The solution to diocesan pastoral problems that arise should not be limited to organisational matters, important though they are, because there is a danger of emphasising a search for efficiency with a sort of 'bureaucratisation of pastoral work', focusing on organisations and programmes that can become self-referential, for the exclusive use of the members of such organisations. ... Instead, evangelisation must start from an encounter with the Lord in a dialogue established in prayer, and then concentrate on witness in order to help our contemporaries rediscover the signs of God's presence".

The Holy Father thanked the laity for their generosity in responding to the call to participate in Church activities, noting at the same time that it is necessary, on one hand, to remember that, "the specific mission of the laity is Christian action in the public sphere, where they act on their own initiative and in an independent manner, in the light of faith and the Church's teaching. It is therefore necessary to safeguard the difference between the common priesthood of all the faithful and the ministerial priesthood of those ordained to serve the community: a difference that is not only of degree but of nature. On the other hand, full fidelity to the deposit of faith taught by the true Magisterium and professed by the entire Church must be maintained".

Later the Pope spoke of one of France's patron saints, Joan of Arc. This year the Church celebrates the sixth centenary of her birth. He noted that "one of the most original features of her holiness is precisely the link between mystical experience and political mission", and he urged the bishops to promote her as a "model of secular sanctity in the service of the common good".

"I would also like to emphasise the interdependence between the development of the person and the development of society itself and the fact that the family, which is the foundation of social life, is threatened in many places by a faulty conception of human nature. Defending life and the family in society is not at all backward-looking but prophetic, since it entails the promotion of values that allow the full development of the human person created in the image and likeness of God".

Another of the tasks of a diocesan bishop is "to defend the unity of the entire Church within the portion of God's people which has been entrusted to him, even if his heart expresses legitimately different sensitivities that merit equal pastoral concern". In this area the Pope referred to "the specific expectations of younger generations who require proper catechesis so that they might find their place within the community of believers". He recalled the many French youths, accompanied by their pastors, who participated in World Youth Day in Madrid, as a sign of the "new dynamism of the faith that opens the doors to hope".

Lastly, Benedict XVI expressed his support for the programme "Diaconia 2013", which calls on diocesan and local communities as well as all believers to "put the service of all our brothers and sisters, especially the most fragile, at the heart of ecclesial outreach. May that service of our brothers and sisters, rooted in God's love, arouse in all your faithful the desire to contribute, each to the extent of their own strengths, to making humanity a single, fraternal, and communal family in Christ", he concluded.



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