VATICAN CITY, MAY 16, 2011 ( Benedict XVI is encouraging greater catechesis to help the faithful grow in faith, love and service.

The Pope stated this today when he received in audience Indian bishops of the Latin rite who are in Rome for their five-yearly "ad limina" visit. Catholics in India belong to one of three rites: Latin, Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara.

"Within the Church," the Pontiff said, "believers' first steps along the way of Christ must always be accompanied by a sound catechesis that will allow them to flourish in faith, love and service."

He continued: "Christian revelation, when accepted in freedom and by the working of God's grace, transforms men and women from within and establishes a wonderful, redemptive relationship with God our heavenly Father, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit.

"This is the heart of the message we teach, this is the great gift we offer in charity to our neighbor: a share in the very life of God."

"Recognizing that catechesis is distinct from theological speculation," the Holy Father stated, "priests, religious and lay catechists need to know how to communicate with clarity and loving devotion the life-transforming beauty of Christian living and teaching, which will enable and enrich the encounter with Christ himself."

He added that "this is especially true of the preparation of the faithful to meet our Lord in the sacraments."

Gospel witnesses

"In relation to the wider world, the Christian commitment to live and to bear witness to the Gospel offers distinct challenges in every time and place," Benedict XVI acknowledged.

He noted that "this is certainly true of your country, which is home to various ancient religions, including Christianity."

"The Christian life in such societies always demands honesty and sincerity about one's own beliefs, and respect for those of one's neighbor," the Pope observed.

He added, "The presentation of the Gospel in such circumstances, therefore, involves the delicate process of inculturation."

"This is an undertaking which respects and maintains the uniqueness and integrity of the divine revelation given to the Church as her inheritance, while showing that it is intelligible and attractive to those to whom it is proposed," the Pontiff explained.

He added, "The process of inculturation requires that priests, religious and lay catechists carefully employ the languages and appropriate customs of the people they serve in presenting the Good News."

The Holy Father encouraged the prelates, "As you strive to meet the challenging circumstances of proclaiming that message in the various cultural settings in which you find yourselves, you, my dear brother bishops, are called to oversee this process with a fidelity to the deposit of faith which has been handed down to us to maintain and transmit."

He added, "Combine that fidelity with sensitivity and creativity, so that you may give a convincing account of the hope that is within you."

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