Papal Address to Recently Ordained Prelates

«Evangelization is not the work of some specialists, but of the whole People of God»

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VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 21, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Thursday to a group of recently ordained prelates participating in a course organized by the Congregations for Bishops and for Eastern Churches.

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Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

The pilgrimage to the Tomb of Saint Peter, which you made in these days of reflection on the episcopal ministry, assumes particular importance this year. We are in fact on the eve of the Year of Faith, of the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council and the 13th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the topic: «New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.» These events, to which must be added the 20th anniversary of the [publication of the] Catechism of the Catholic Church, are occasions to reinforce the faith, of which, dear Brothers, you are teachers and heralds (cf. Lumen Gentium, 25). I greet each one of you, and express my heartfelt gratitude to Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, also for the words he addressed to me, and to Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches. 

Your being together in Rome, at the beginning of your episcopal service, is a propitious moment to experience concretely communication and communion among yourselves and in the meeting with the Successor of Peter, nourishing the sense of responsibility for the whole Church. In fact, as members of the Episcopal College you must always have a special concern for the universal Church, in the first place promoting and defending the unity of the faith. Jesus Christ willed to entrust the mission of the proclamation of the Gospel first of all to the body of Pastors, who must collaborate among themselves and with the Successor of Peter (cf. Ibid., 23), so that it reaches all people. This is particularly urgent in our time, which calls us to be daring in inviting people of every condition to the encounter with Jesus and to render the faith more solid (cf. Christus Dominus, 12). 

May your priority concern be to promote and support «a more convinced ecclesial commitment in favor of the New Evangelization to rediscover the joy of believing and enthusiasm in communicating the faith» (Apostolic Letter Porta fidei, 7). In this you are also called to favor and nourish communion and collaboration among all the elements of your dioceses. In fact, evangelization is not the work of some specialists, but of the whole People of God, under the guidance of Pastors. Every member of the faithful, in and with the ecclesial community, must feel responsible for the proclamation and witness of the Gospel. Blessed John XXIII, opening the great encounter of Vatican II, looked forward to «a leap toward a doctrinal penetration and formation of consciences,» and because of this — he added — «it is necessary that this certain and immutable doctrine, which must be faithfully respected, be deepened and presented so that it responds to the needs of our time» (Opening Address of II Vatican Ecumenical Council, October 11, 1962). 

We could say that the New Evangelization began in fact with the Council, that Blessed John XXIII saw it as a new Pentecost that would make the Church blossom in her inner richness and extend herself maternally to all the fields of human activity (cf. Address at the Closing of the First Period of the Council, December 8, 1962). The effects of that new Pentecost, despite the difficulties of the times, were extended, reaching the life of the Church in every one of her expressions: from the institutional to the spiritual, from participation of the lay faithful in the Church to charismatic flowering and holiness. In this regard, we cannot fail to think of John XXIII himself and of Blessed John Paul II, of so many figures of bishops, priests, consecrated persons and laymen, who rendered the face of the Church beautiful in our time. 

This inheritance has also been entrusted to your pastoral care. Draw from this patrimony of doctrine, of spirituality, and of holiness to form your faithful in the faith, so that their witness is more credible. At the same time, your episcopal service requires that your give a «reason for the hope that is in you» (1 Peter 3:15), to all those who are seeking faith and the ultimate meaning of life, in whom also «grace works invisibly. Christ, in fact, died for all and man’s ultimate vocation is, effectively, one, the divine» (Gaudium et spes, 22). Hence I encourage you to commit yourselves so that all, according to the different ages and conditions of life, are presented the essential contents of the faith, systematically and organically, to respond, also, to the questions posed by our technological and globalized world. Always timely are the words of the Servant of God Paul VI, who said: «We must evangelize — not in a decorative manner, like superficial varnish, but in a vital way, in profundity and to the roots of culture and the cultures of man, always beginning from the person and turning always to the relations of persons among themselves and with God» (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, 20). Fundamental to this end is the Catechism of the Catholic Church, sure norm for the teaching of the faith and communion in the one Creed. The reality in which we live  demands that a Christian have a solid formation!

Faith calls for credible witnesses, who trust in the Lord and entrust themselves to Him to be «living sign of the presence of the Risen One in the world» (Apostolic Letter Porta fidei, 15). The bishop, first witness of the faith, accompanies the journey of believers offering the example of a life lived in confident abandonment to God. Hence, in order to be an authoritative teacher and herald of the faith, he must live in the Lord’s presence, as a man of God. In fact, one cannot be at the service of men without first being at the service of God. May your personal commitment to holiness be seen every day in assimilation of the Word of God in prayer and nourished by the Eucharist, to draw from this twofold table the vital lymph for the ministry. May charity drive you to be close to your priests, with that paternal love that is able to support, encourage and forgive; they are your first and precious collaborators in taking God to men and men to God. Likewise, the charity of the Good Shepherd will make you attentive to the poor and the suffering, to sustain and console them, as well as to orient those who have lost the meaning of life. Be particularly close to families, to parents, helping them to be the first educators of the faith of their children; to youngsters and youth, so that they are able to build their life on the solid rock of friendship with Christ. Have special care for seminarians, being concerned that they be formed humanly, spiritually, theologically and pastorally, so that the communities can have mature and joyful pastors and sure guides in the faith. 

Dear Brothers, the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy: «aim at righteousness, faith, love, and peace . The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, forbearing, correcting his opponents with gentleness» (2 Timothy 2:22-25). Recalling these words to myself and to you, I impart to each of you my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing, so that the Churches entrusted to you, driven by the wind of the Holy Spirit, will grow in the faith and proclaim it on the paths of history with new ardor. 

[Translation by ZENIT]
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