VATICAN CITY, FEB. 12, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to the bishops of Romania and Moldova in Rome for their five-yearly visit.
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Venerated brothers in the episcopate,
It is a source of great joy to me to meet with you in the course of the ad limina visit, to listen to you and to reflect together on the journey of the People of God entrusted to you. I greet each one of you affectionately and I thank Archbishop Ioan Robu, in particular, for the cordial words he addressed to me on your behalf. A special thought goes to His Beatitude Lucian Muresan, archbishop major of the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church. You are pastors of communities of different rites, who put the riches of your own long tradition at the service of communion, for the good of all. In you I greet the Christian communities of Romania and of the Republic of Moldova, sorely tested in the past, and pay tribute to those bishops and innumerable priests, men and women religious and faithful who, in the time of persecution, showed indomitable attachment to Christ and his Church, and kept their faith intact.
To you, dear brothers in the episcopate, I wish to express my gratitude for your generous commitment at the service of the rebirth and development of the Catholic community in your countries, and exhort you to continue being zealous pastors of Christ’s flock, in belonging to the one Church and in respect of the different ritual traditions. To keep and transmit the patrimony of faith is a task of the whole Church, but particularly of bishops (cf. “Lumen Gentium,” 25). The field of your ministry is vast and exacting; in fact, it is about proposing to the faithful an itinerary of mature and responsible Christian faith, especially through the teaching of religion, catechesis — also for adults — and the preparation of the sacraments. In this realm it is appropriate to promote a greater knowledge of sacred Scripture, of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and of the documents of the magisterium, in particular, of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council and of papal encyclicals. It is a difficult program, which requires the joint elaboration of pastoral plans geared to the bonum animarum of all Catholics of the different rites and ethnic groups. This calls for witnessing unity, sincere dialogue and active collaboration, not forgetting that unity is primarily the fruit of the Holy Spirit (cf. Galatians 5:22), who guides the Church.
In this Year for Priests, I exhort you to be always authentic fathers of your presbyters, the first and precious collaborators in the Lord’s vineyard (cf. “Christus Dominus,” 16.28); there is with them first of all a sacramental bond, which makes them uniquely participants in the pastoral mission entrusted to the bishops. Be determined in preserving communion among yourselves and with them in a climate of affection, care and respectful and fraternal dialogue; be interested in their spiritual and material conditions, in their theological and pastoral actualization. There is no lack of religious institutes in your dioceses committed to pastoral care. It will be your special care to give them due attention and provide them with every possible help so that their presence is increasingly significant and the consecrated can carry out their apostolate according to their charism and in full communion with the local Church.
God does not cease to call men and women to his service: We should be grateful to the Lord for this, intensifying prayer so that he will continue to send laborers to his harvest (cf. Matthew 9:37). A primary task of the bishops is to promote vocational pastoral care and the human, spiritual and intellectual formation of candidates to the priesthood in the seminaries and in the rest of the formative institutes (cf. “Optatam Totius,” 2.4), guaranteeing them the possibility of acquiring a profound spirituality and a rigorous philosophical/theological and pastoral preparation, also through the careful selection of educators and docents. Similar care must be given to the formation of members of institutes of consecrated life, in particular, women’s institutes.
The flowering of priestly and religious vocations depends to a large extent on the moral and religious health of Christian families. Unfortunately, not few in our time are the snares placed before the institution of the family in a secularized and disoriented society. The Catholic families of your countries, which during the time of trial gave witness, at times at a high price, of the fidelity of the Gospel, are not immune to the plague of abortion, corruption, alcoholism and drugs, or to birth control through methods contrary to the dignity of the human person. To combat these challenges, it is necessary to promote parish consultors who ensure adequate preparation for conjugal and family life in addition to organizing better youth ministry. Necessary above all is a determined commitment to foster the presence of Christian values in society, developing centers of formation where young people can learn authentic values embellished by the cultural genius of your countries, to be able to witness them in the environments where they live. The Church wants to give her determined contribution to the construction of a reconciled and solidary society, able to address the process of present-day secularization. The transformation of the industrial and agricultural system, the economic crisis, emigration abroad, have not favored the preservation of traditional values which, because of this, must be proposed and reinforced again.
In this context, of particular importance is the witness of fraternity between Catholics and Orthodox: It prevails over divisions and disagreements and opens hearts to reconciliation. I am aware of the difficulties that Catholic communities must face in this realm; I hope that adequate solutions can be found, in that spirit of justice and charity that must animate relations between brothers in Christ. In May of 2009, you recalled the 10th anniversary of the historic visit that the Venerable Pope John Paul II made to Romania. On that occasion, Divine Providence offered the Successor of Peter the possibility of undertaking an apostolic journey to a nation of Orthodox majority, where for centuries a significant Catholic community has been present. May the desire for unity aroused by that visit nourish prayer and the commitment to dialogue in charity and truth and to promote joint initiatives. A particularly important realm of collaboration between Orthodox and Catholics today has to do with the defense of Europe’s Christian roots and of Christian values, and with common witness on subjects such as the family, bioethics, human rights, honesty in public life and ecology. Undivided determination on these arguments will offer an important contribution to the moral and civil growth of society. A constructive dialogue between Orthodox and Catholics will not fail to be leaven of unity and concord not only for your countries, but also for the whole of Europe.
At the end of our meeting, my thoughts go out to your communities. Take to the priests, the men and women religious, to all the faithful of Romania and of the Republic of Moldova my greetings and encouragement, assuring them of my affection and prayer. While I invoke the intercession of the Mother of God and of the saints of your lands, I impart from the heart my blessing to you and to all the members of the People of God entrusted to your pastoral solicitude.