(Photo: AP/Pier Paolo Citoi)
Pope Benedict XVI encouraged visiting bishops to fight secularism by reawakening a missionary spirit in the Catholic Church, saying the Christian faith provides the best foundation for society.
“We know that, ultimately, Christian faith provides a surer basis for life than the secular vision,” the 84-year-old pope told a gathering of bishops from New Zealand and the Pacific in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace this weekend.
“It is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of humanity truly becomes clear,” he said, according to Vatican Radio. The address was made at the last day of the bishops’ “ad limina” visit to Rome – every five years each Catholic bishop visits Rome to meet the pope and pray at the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul.
Secularism, the pope acknowledged, is “a reality that has a significant impact on the understanding and practice of the Catholic faith.” This, he added, is seen specifically in “a weakened appreciation for the sacred nature of Christian marriage and the stability of the family.”
In such a context, he went on to say, the struggle to lead a life worthy of “our baptismal calling [based on Ephesians 4:1] and to abstain from the earthly passions which wage war against our souls [as per 1 Peter 2:11] becomes ever more challenging.”
“Since the Christian faith is founded on the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, the new evangelization is not an abstract concept but a renewal of authentic Christian living based on the teachings of the Church,” the pope told the bishops. Then term “New Evangelization” refers to efforts to re-evangelize countries that were once Christian but have become secularized. He said he had established the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization last year for this reason.
Pope Benedict is known for calling denial of objective truth as the main problem of the 21st century.
“You, as Bishops and Pastors, are called to be protagonists in formulating this response according to local needs and circumstances in your various countries and among your peoples,” the pope said. He also urged the bishops to care for their priests by working for “their sanctification, especially those who are experiencing difficulties and those who have little contact with their brother priests.”
In conclusion, the pope spoke about the Year of Faith, which begins next October to give “a fresh impetus to the mission of the whole Church to lead human beings out of the wilderness in which they find themselves.”