Pope Urges Bishops to Evangelize Their Communities

Encourages Episcopal Cooperation to Meet Modern Challenges

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YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon, MARCH 18, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is encouraging bishops to work together to proclaim the Gospel to everyone, keeping a paternal closeness with their priests, forming the laity and caring for the poor.

The Pope said this in an address to the bishops of Cameroon at Christ the King Church in Yaoundé.

He urged his listeners to evangelize in their diocesan communities, «for there are countless people still waiting to hear the message of hope and love that will enable them to obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.»

«The proclamation of the Gospel is the particular task of the Bishop,» he noted, and in order to «strengthen and purify their faith, the faithful need to hear the words of their bishop, the catechist par excellence.»

The Pontiff affirmed that «in order to undertake this mission of evangelization and respond to the many challenges of today’s world, […] the pastors of the Church must be united by a profound communion with one another.»

Together, he said, the bishops can «search collectively for answers to the many challenges which the Church has to face» and «give common guidelines to assist the faithful in their ecclesial and social life.»

He added: «This apostolic solidarity should also extend generously to meet the needs of other local bishops, especially those of your continent. Thus it will appear clearly that your Christian communities, following the example of those that brought the Gospel message to you, are likewise a missionary Church.»

Close communion

The Holy Father exhorted the bishops to «maintain relations of close communion,» with the priests, «founded on the one priesthood of Christ.»

«If they see in their bishop a father and a brother who loves them,» he observed, «listens to them and offers them comfort in their trials, who devotes particular attention to their human and material needs, they are encouraged to carry out their ministry whole-heartedly, worthily and fruitfully.»

He noted, «The words and example of their bishop have a key role in inspiring them to give their spiritual and sacramental life a central place in their ministry, spurring them on to discover and to live ever more deeply the particular role of the shepherd as, first and foremost, a man of prayer.»

Benedict XVI urged his audience «to be especially vigilant regarding the faithfulness of priests and consecrated persons to the commitments made at their ordination or entry into religious life, so that they persevere in their vocation, for the greater holiness of the Church and the glory of God.»

He appealed to the bishops «to give priority to the choice and training of formators and spiritual directors» of those discerning priesthood.

The Pope noted the contribution of religious and catechists who have played a key role in the evangelization of the country.

Lay faithful

He observed that «the situation of the family is of particular concern.» He acknowledged that «the difficulties arising from the impact of modernity and secularization on traditional society inspire you to defend vigorously the essential values of the African family, and to give high priority to its thorough evangelization.»

The Pontiff pointed out that «the liturgy occupies an important place in the expression of your communities’ faith.»

He underlined that it is «essential that the joy expressed [in the liturgy] does not obstruct, but rather facilitates dialogue and communion with God, attained through a genuine internalization of the structures and words of the liturgy, so that these express what is taking place in the hearts of believers, in true union with all the other participants.»

Due to the influence of sects, esoteric movements, and «superstitious forms of religion, as well as relativism,» the Holy Father asserted that there is a need to «give new impetus to the formation of children and young adults, especially in university settings and intellectual circles.»

He noted the involvement of lay people in the life of the Church, and highlighted in particular «the active involvement of women’s associations in several areas of the Church’s mission, which shows a genuine recognition of the dignity of women and their particular vocation in the ecclesial community and in society.»

Remember the poor

Benedict XVI noted the effects of globalization, and the Church’s interest in helping the poor.

He reminded the bishops of their mission «to be the defender of the rights of the poor, to call forth and encourage the exercise of charity, which is a manifestation of the Lord’s love for the little ones.»

«In this way,» he continued, «the faithful are led to grasp the fact that the Church is truly God’s family, gathered in brotherly love; this leaves no room for ethnocentrism or factionalism, and it contributes toward reconciliation and cooperation among ethnic groups for the good of all.»

Through its social doctrine, the Pope said, «the Church seeks to awaken hope in the hearts of those left by the wayside.»

He added, «So it is the duty of Christians, particularly lay people with social, economic and political responsibilities, to be guided by the Church’s social teaching, in order to contribute to the building up of a more just world where everyone can live with dignity.»

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