Secular Britain Thirsty for Good News, Pope Observes

Says Trip Has Shown Him People’s Longing for Christ

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BIRMINGHAM, England, SEPT 19, 2010 ( Benedict XVI concluded his four-day trip to the United Kingdom today, telling the bishops of England, Scotland and Wales that the visit has shown him how the people of Britain have a great thirst for the Good News of Jesus Christ.

The Pope made this affirmation at St. Mary’s College seminary, an architecturally magnificent site rich in the history of the Catholic renewal in England after centuries of persecution. In meeting with the bishops, the Pontiff brought to a close his intense four-day stay in the United Kingdom. From there he left for the Birmingham International Airport where he gave his final address.

Benedict XVI recalled his recent conversations at the Vatican with the bishops, who had their five-yearly visit to Rome in February.

«We spoke then about some of the challenges you face as you lead your people in faith, particularly regarding the urgent need to proclaim the Gospel afresh in a highly secularized environment,» the Pope recalled. «In the course of my visit it has become clear to me how deep a thirst there is among the British people for the Good News of Jesus Christ. You have been chosen by God to offer them the living water of the Gospel, encouraging them to place their hopes, not in the vain enticements of this world, but in the firm assurances of the next.»

The Holy Father encouraged the bishops to present «in its fulness the life-giving message of the Gospel, including those elements which call into question the widespread assumptions of today’s culture.»

And he made two concrete recommendations in this regard: to take advantage of the new pontifical council he created, which is dedicated to the new evangelization in countries with a long Christian tradition; and to avail of ecclesial movements, many of which he noted have a particular charism for evangelization.

Sharing lessons

The Pontiff also took advantage of the address to once again reiterate the Church’s concern for victims of sexual abuse by the clergy. He repeated his praise for the bishops’ efforts to confront this problem, just as he had done Saturday when he met both with victims and a group of people dedicated to safeguarding children in ecclesial environments.

«I know that you have taken serious steps to remedy this situation, to ensure that children are effectively protected from harm and to deal properly and transparently with allegations as they arise,» he told the prelates. «You have publicly acknowledged your deep regret over what has happened, and the often inadequate ways it was addressed in the past. 

«Your growing awareness of the extent of child abuse in society, its devastating effects, and the need to provide proper victim support should serve as an incentive to share the lessons you have learned with the wider community. 

«Indeed, what better way could there be of making reparation for these sins than by reaching out, in a humble spirit of compassion, towards children who continue to suffer abuse elsewhere? Our duty of care towards the young demands nothing less.»

Humble and holy

The Bishop of Rome referred as well to now-Blessed John Henry Newman, the Anglican convert he beatified this morning.

He cited Blessed Newman’s prayer that God would bring people to pray for the clergy.

In that light, the Pope said: «I pray that among the graces of this visit will be a renewed dedication on the part of Christian leaders to the prophetic vocation they have received, and a new appreciation on the part of the people for the great gift of the ordained ministry. 

«Prayer for vocations will then arise spontaneously, and we may be confident that the Lord will respond by sending laborers to bring in the plentiful harvest that he has prepared throughout the United Kingdom.»

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