Catholics Can Aid Public Life by Evangelizing the Culture, Pope Says

In His Address to Bishops of England and Wales

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 23, 2003 ( The Church can contribute to public life by its “evangelization of culture,” says John Paul II.

The Pope expressed this conviction today when he received the bishops of England and Wales on their five-yearly visit to the Holy See.

“As bishops, you rightly seek to find ways for the truth of Christ to be given due consideration in the public arena,” he said. “In this regard, I recognize the fine contribution of your pastoral letters and statements on matters of concern in your society.”

At the same time, the Holy Father urged them “to continue to ensure that such statements give full and clear expression to the whole of the Church’s magisterial teaching.”

In particular, John Paul II appealed the Church in England and Wales “to uphold the uniqueness of marriage as a lifelong union between a man and a woman in which as husband and wife they share in God’s loving work of creation.”

“Equating marriage with other forms of cohabitation obscures the sacredness of marriage and violates its precious value in God’s plan for humanity,” he said.

“Without doubt a primary factor in the shaping of today’s culture is the mass media,” the Holy Father continued. “The fundamental moral requirement of all communication is that it should respect and serve the truth. Your efforts to assist those working in this field to exercise their responsibility are commendable.”

“Though these efforts may at times meet with resistance, I encourage you to endeavor to work together with the men and women of the media. Invite them to join you in breaking down barriers of mistrust and in striving to bring peoples together in understanding and respect,” he told the bishops, who were headed by the archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor.

During their visit to Rome, the bishops expressed their unhappiness with the “hostile” treatment by BBC of some programs on John Paul II and the Catholic Church in general.

For the evangelization of culture, the Pope emphasized the contribution of Catholic schools, “both to enriching the faith of the Catholic community and to promoting excellence within civic life in general.”

“Recognizing the profound changes that affect the world of education, I encourage teachers, lay and religious, in their primary mission of ensuring that those who have been baptized become daily more appreciative of the gift of faith which they have received,” he said, quoting in part from the Second Vatican Council declaration “Gravissimum Educationis.”

“We need teachers with a clear and precise understanding of the specific nature and role of Catholic education,” he stressed.

The Pope appealed to the religious in England and Wales “not to abandon the school apostolate and indeed to renew their commitment to serve also in schools situated in poorer areas.”

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