VATICAN CITY, NOV. 7, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Given the crisis of the Church in Austria, Benedict XVI proposed a “change of course” to overcome the fear of proclaiming the Christian faith in its entirety.
On Saturday the Pope received the Austria’s bishops at the close of their five-yearly visit to Rome. In his address to them in German, the Holy Father referred to the “painful events” that are taking place.
“The process of secularization, ever more significant for Europe, has not halted, not even at the doors of Catholic Austria,” he said.
About three-quarters of Austria’s 8.1 million inhabitants are Catholic. Over the last few years, the Church in Austria has endured the fallout of abuse scandals, such as that of the St. Polten Seminary, in the summer of 2004.
“Identification with the teaching of the Church is declining in many faithful and in this way the certainty of the faith is lost and reverential respect for the law of God weakens,” Benedict XVI continued.
“What can we do?” he asked. “On one hand, the clear, courageous and enthusiastic confession is necessary of faith in Jesus Christ.
“On the other, numerous missionary measures are necessary, small and great, which we must take to effect a ‘change of course.'”
“Have no illusions!” warned the Pope. “A Catholic teaching that is given in an incomplete manner is a contradiction in itself and cannot be fruitful in the long term.”
“Think of the way in which, little by little, the teaching of religion, catechesis at the different levels and preaching can be improved, deepened and, so to speak, completed,” the Holy Father urged.
“Please, use the Compendium and the Catechism of the Catholic Church with zeal,” he insisted. “Try to make priests and catechists adopt these instruments, that they be explained in parishes, in associations and movements, and that they be used in families as important readings.
“In the uncertainty of this historical period and of this society, offer men the certainty of the complete faith of the Church.”
“The clarity and beauty of the Catholic faith makes the life of man luminous also today — above all, if it is presented by enthusiastic and exciting witnesses,” he stressed.
Benedict XVI is optimistic. “The spark of Christian zeal,” he said, “can be lit again.”