Pope's Address to Dutch Bishops on their Ad Limina Visit

Yesterday,  Pope Holy Father Francis received in audience the group of Bishops from the Netherlands, on their “ad Limina” visit.

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Here is a translation of the text of the Pope’s address:

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Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

In these days in which you are carrying out your visit ad Limina Apostolorum, I greet each one of you affectionately in the Lord and I assure you of my prayer that this pilgrimage be rich in grace and fruitful for the Church in the Netherlands. Thank you, Cardinal Willem Jacobus Eijk, for the words you addressed to me in the name of all!

Allow me first of all to express my gratitude for the service of Christ and of the Gospel that you fulfill for the people entrusted to you, often in arduous circumstances. It is not easy to preserve hope in the difficulties that you must face! The collegial exercise of your Episcopal ministry, in communion with the Bishop of Rome, is a necessity to make this hope grow, in true dialogue and effective collaboration. It will do you good to look with confidence at the signs of vitality that manifest themselves in the Christian communities of your dioceses. They are signs of the active presence of the Lord in the midst of the men and women of your country who expect genuine witnesses of the hope that makes you live, which comes from Christ.

With her maternal patience, the Church continues her efforts to respond to the anxieties of so many men and women who experience anguish and discouragement in face of the future. With your priests, your direct collaborators, you want to be close to persons who suffer from spiritual emptiness and who are seeking meaning for their life, even if they do not always know how to express it. How should they be accompanied in this search, if not by listening to them to share with them the hope, the joy, the capacity to go forward that Christ gives us?

That is why the Church seeks to propose the faith in an authentic, comprehensible and pastoral way. The Year of Faith was a happy opportunity to manifest how the content of the faith can reach every man. Christian anthropology and the Social Doctrine of the Church are part of the patrimony of the experience and humanity on which European civilization is founded and they can help to reaffirm concretely the primacy of man over technology and structures. And this primacy of man presupposes openness to transcendence. Otherwise, by doing away with the transcendent dimension, a culture is impoverished, whereas it should show the possibility of linking faith and reason, truth and liberty in constant harmony. Thus, the Church does not propose only immutable moral truths, and attitudes against the current in regard to the world, but she proposes them as the key for human wellbeing and social development. Christians have their own mission to pick up this challenge. Hence, the education of consciences becomes a priority, especially through the formation of critical judgment, also having a positive approach to the social realities, thus avoiding superficial judgments and resignation to indifference. Therefore, this requires that Catholics, priests, consecrated persons and laymen acquire a solid and qualitative formation. I heartily encourage you to join your efforts to respond to this need and make possible a better proclamation of the Gospel. In this context, the witness and commitment of the laity in the Church and in society have an important role and must be energetically supported. All of us baptized persons are invited to be missionary-disciples, there where we are!

In your society, strongly marked by secularization, I encourage you also to be present in the public debate, in all environments in which man is in question, to render visible the mercy of God, his tenderness for every creature. In today’s world, the Church has the task to repeat tirelessly the words of Jesus: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). However, we must ask ourselves: does he who meets us, he who meets a Christian perceive something of God’s goodness, of the joy of having encountered Christ? As I have often stated, beginning with the genuine experience of the Episcopal ministry, the Church is extended not by proselytism but by attraction. She is sent everywhere to awaken, to reawaken, to maintain hope! Hence the importance of encouraging your faithful to respond to occasions of dialogue, making themselves present in places in which the future is decided, thus they will be able to make their contribution in the debates on the great social questions regarding, for instance, the family, marriage, the end of life.

Today more than ever the need is felt to go forward on the path of ecumenism, inviting to a true dialogue that seeks the elements of truth and goodness and offers answers inspired in the Gospel. The Holy Spirit pushes us to come out of ourselves to go to others!

In a country that is rich in so many aspects, poverty is touching a growing number of people. Appreciate the generosity of the faithful to take the light and compassion of Christ to places that await it and, in particular, to the more marginalized persons! Moreover, the Catholic school, furnishing young people with a solid education, will continue to foster their human and spiritual formation, in a spirit of dialogue and fraternity with those who do not share their faith. Therefore, it is important that Christian young people receive a catechesis of quality, which sustains their faith and leads them to the encounter with Christ. Solid formation and a spirit of openness! This is how the Good News continues to spread.

You know well that the future and the vitality of the Church in the Netherlands depend also on priestly and religious vocations! It is urgent to bring about a vigorous and attractive vocational pastoral, and also a common search on the way to support the human and spiritual maturation of seminarians, so that they live a personal relationship with the Lord, which will be the foundation of their priestly life! We can also feel the urgency to pray to the Owner of the harvest! The rediscovery of prayer under different forms, and particularly Eucharistic Adoration, is a reason for hope to make the Church grow and take root. How important and indispensable it is to be close to your presbytery, available to each one of your priests to support and guide them if they are in need! As fathers, find the necessary time to receive them and to listen to them, every time they ask for it. And also do not forget to go to meet those who do not approach you. Some of them unfortunately are failing in their commitments. In an altogether particular way, I wish to express my compassion and assure my prayers to each of the persons victims of sexual abuses and their families. I ask you to continue to support them in their painful path of healing, undertaken with courage. Being attentive to respond to the desire of Christ, the Good Shepherd, have at heart the defense and growth of unity in everything and among all.

To conclude, with you I would like to render thanks again for the signs of vitality with which the Lord has blessed the Church that is in the Netherlands, in a context that is not always easy. May he encourage and confirm you in the delicate mission of guiding your communities on the path of faith and unity, of truth and charity. While I entrust you, the priests, the consecrated persons and the lay faithful of your dioceses to the protection of the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, I impart to you my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing, pledge of peace and spiritual gladness; and I ask you, fraternally, not to forget to pray for me!

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