Benedict XVI Urges Prayerful Approach to Christian Charity

Encourages Testimony of Exemplary and Virtuous Lives

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 30, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is encouraging the contemplation of Christ as the Good Shepherd to inspire authentic Christian charity toward the needy, which goes beyond activism or secular philanthropy.  

The Pope said this today to a group of Argentine bishops on their five-yearly visit to Rome, led by Archbishop Luis Héctor Villalba, vicepresident of the bishops’ conference.

The Pontiff affirmed that the Lord entrusts bishops with «a ministry of great importance and dignity: that of bringing his message of peace and reconciliation to all people, of caring for the holy people of God with paternal love and leading them along the path of salvation.»

He added that in exercising this ministry, «a bishop must always act as a servant among his faithful, drawing constant inspiration from the One who came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life to save many.»

«Truly,» the Holy Father said, «to be bishop is an honor when lived with that spirit of service to others and as a humble and disinterested participation in the mission of Christ.»
 
Benedict XVI emphasized that «frequent contemplation of the image of the Good Shepherd will serve as a model and a stimulus for your efforts to announce and spread the Gospel; it will encourage you to care for the faithful with tenderness and mercy, to defend the weak and to spend your lives in constant and generous dedication to the people of God.»

He urged the prelates to promote «the practice of charity, especially among the most needy» in their dioceses. He underlined the importance of «prayer as opposed to activism or a secularized vision of the charitable efforts of Christians.»

«This assiduous contact with Christ through prayer will transform believers’ hearts,» the Pope continued, «opening them to the needs of others and so ensuring they are not inspired by ideologies aimed at improving the world, but guided by the faith which works through love.»

Ministry

The Pontiff encouraged the prelates to strengthen «bonds of affection, respect and trust» with the priests of the diocese. He added, «I recognize your priests’ self-sacrifice and commitment to the ministry, and I too wish to invite them to identify themselves increasingly with the Lord, becoming true models for their people by their virtues and good example, and feeding the flock of God.»
 
The Holy Father also spoke about working with lay people, who, «conscious of their baptismal promises and animated by Christ’s charity, participate actively in the mission of the Church, as well as in the social, political, economic and cultural life of their country.»

He continued, «Catholics should stand out among their fellow citizens by the exemplary accomplishment of their civic duties, and by the exercise of those human and Christian virtues which help to improve personal, social and working relationships.»

«Their commitment will also lead them to promote values that are essential to the common good of society,» said the Pope, «such as peace, justice, solidarity, the good of the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman, the defense of life from conception until natural death, and the right and obligation of parents to educate children according to their own moral and religious convictions.»

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