Portuguese Bishops: Papal Visit Is a Pilgrimage

Affirm That the Whole Church Travels With Him

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LISBON, Portugal, OCT. 7, 2009 (Zenit.org).-  Benedict XVI will visit Portugal in 2010 as a «pilgrim of Fatima,» the prelates of that country are affirming.

The Portuguese bishops’ conference stated this in a pastoral note publicized Monday, in which they spoke about the Pope’s upcoming May 12-13 visit to the Marian shrine.
The bishops said that they perceive «jubilation and joy in our people» over the Papal visit, which «is the realization of a long awaited desire that very much honors and distinguishes us.»
The conference expressed heartfelt gratitude toward the Holy Father for planning this trip. The bishops stated that they wish to correspond to this honor with «the love for the Pope that is a profound dimension of Portuguese Catholicism.»
The note explained, «Visible communion with the Successor of Peter, physically present among us, will be, once again, the occasion of a spontaneous expression of that love for his person, his teaching and his universal service and fidelity to the Church.»
The prelates stated that the Holy Father will go to the country «essentially as a pilgrim of Fatima,» where he will encounter a «lively expression of all the Churches of Portugal.»
The Pontiff’s visit to Fatima coincides with the 10th anniversary of the beatification of the little shepherds Francisco and Jacinta, and with the commemoration of the centenary of the latter’s birth.

The bishops acknowledged that the trip is also «projected in the wider horizon of [Benedict XVI’s] pilgrimages to the principal Marian shrines spread around the world as great centers of evangelization.»
«When the Pope makes himself a pilgrim in his capacity of universal pastor of the Church, the whole Church goes on pilgrimage with him; that is why this pilgrimage of his has great pastoral, doctrinal and spiritual meaning,» notes the communique.
The prelates expressed the hope that the Holy Father’s visit will encourage «constant and generous commitment in the work of evangelization, helping to move from a traditional religiosity to an adult and reasoned faith.»
They described this faith as capable of giving «courageous witness in private and public, that is able to address the challenges of secularism and of doctrinal and ethical relativism, typical of our time, of which Benedict XVI often reminds us.»
The conference explained that the program of the Papal visit is yet to be defined, and will be discussed by the prelates in their forthcoming assembly in November.
The bishops invited the faithful «to truly receive the Holy Father, as Successor of Peter who comes to confirm brothers in the faith, with affection and personal participation, being united in prayer for his intentions for the Church and for the great aspirations of humanity.»

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