3-October-2008 -- Vatican Information Service |

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Church Does Not Impose but Freely Proposes the Faith

VATICAN CITY, 2 OCT 2008 (VIS) - This morning the Pope received bishops and ordinaries of Kazakhstan and Central Asia, who have just completed their "ad limina" visit.

The Holy Father began his remarks by inviting the prelates to give thanks to God because, "despite the severe pressures suffered during the years of the atheist communist regime, the flame of faith remained alight in believers' hearts thanks to the zealous sacrifice of priests, religious and lay people".

After encouraging the bishops not to lose heart even though the Catholic community is "a small flock", Benedict XVI called on them to allow themselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit and "to keep the flame of faith alight among Christian people. Conserve and draw vantage from the important pastoral and apostolic experiences of the past", he told them. "Continue to educate everyone in listening to the Word of God and arouse, especially in the young, Marian devotion and love for the Eucharist. Spread the practice of the Rosary among families. Patiently and courageously, seek new forms and methods of apostolate, making it your concern to modernise them in accordance with today's needs, bearing in mind the language and culture of the faithful entrusted to you care".

The Pope explained that "such a commitment will prove more incisive and effective" with the collaboration of priests, religious and laity, and he invited the prelates "to support them in moments of difficulty" and of "human and spiritual solitude. Everything should be founded", he said, "on constant recourse to God in prayer and in the constant search for unity among yourselves, and within each of your ... communities".

Referring then to "the blight of violence and terrorism, the spread of extremism and fundamentalism" in the world, Pope Benedict highlighted the need to "contrast this scourge with legislative means. However the force of law must never itself become iniquity, nor can the free exercise of religion be limited, because freely to profess one's faith is a fundamental and universally-recognised human right".

Benedict XVI highlighted how "the Church does not impose but freely proposes the Catholic faith, well aware that conversion is the mysterious fruit of the action of the Holy Spirit. Faith is a gift and a work of God, and hence excludes any form of proselytism that forces, allures or entices people by trickery to embrace it. A person may open to the faith after mature and responsible reflection, and must be able freely to realise that intimate aspiration. This benefits not only the individual, but all society, because the faithful observance of divine precepts helps to build a more just and united form of coexistence".

The Pope concluded his address with an expression of thanks to the priests and religious who work in the various ecclesiastical circumscriptions: Almaty, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.

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