Pope Francis' Address to the Episcopal Conference of Greece

«This unity fosters fraternal communion among you: it is indispensable also for the growth of the Church in Greece, as well as for the progress of the whole society.»

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Pope Francis received in audience the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Greece, on the occasion of their “ad limina Apostolorum” visit.

The following is a translation of the text of the Pope’s address to the Prelates, in the course of the meeting.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I greet you affectionately on the occasion of your ad limina visit.Your pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles is always a privileged occasion to reinforce the bonds of communion with the Successor of Peter and with the whole Episcopal College, scattered throughout the world. This unity fosters fraternal communion among you: it is indispensable also for the growth of the Church in Greece, as well as for the progress of the whole society. This is even truer in your country, which at this moment is in greater need than ever of dialogue between the different political and cultural components, for the safeguarding and promotion of the common good. Therefore, do not fail to spur the persons entrusted to your episcopal care to render everywhere a courageous witness of fraternity.

This diakonia of fraternity postulates on one hand the custody and reinforcement of the cultural traditions and the Christian roots of the Hellenic society, and on the other, it requires openness to the cultural and spiritual values of which numerous migrants are bearers, in a spirit of sincere hospitality toward these brothers and sisters, regardless of race, language or religious creed. Your Christian communities, showing themselves truly united among themselves and, at the same time, open to encounter and hospitality, especially toward the poorest, can really contribute to transform the society, in order to render it more in keeping with the evangelical ideal. I am delighted to know that you are already committed in this pastoral and charitable action, especially in favor of the immigrants, also the irregular, many of whom are Catholics. With all my heart I encourage you to continue with a renewed evangelizing impetus, involving young people especially in this work: they are the future of the Nation.

In the face of the persistent economic-financial crisis, which has hit your country also in a particularly harsh way, do not tire of exhorting all to trust in the future, opposing the so-called culture of pessimism. The spirit of solidarity, which every Christian is called to witness in the concreteness of daily life, constitutes a leaven of hope. It is important that you maintain constructive relations with the Authorities of your county, as well as with the different components of the society, in order to diffuse this perspective of solidarity, of an attitude of dialogue and collaboration also with other European countries.

I encourage you, in this very same spirit, to continue the inter-personal dialogue with Orthodox brothers, in order to nourish the necessary ecumenical endeavor, indispensable prospect for a future of serenity and of spiritual fecundity for you entire Nation.

To carry forward the mission of evangelization and of human promotion to which the Church in Greece is called, the presence is indispensable of a generous and motivated clergy. Therefore, I exhort you to increment, with appropriate instruments, the pastoral vocation, to address the numerical insufficiency of the clergy. In this connection, I ask you to transmit to the priests of your dioceses, many of whom are elderly, all my affection and appreciation for their apostolic zeal, despite the restricted means.

A necessary and precious contribution to the proclamation of the Gospel is offered by the Institutes of Consecrated Life, to which I invite you to give the just attention so that, despite the difficulties, they will continue their mission in the country. I am thinking, especially, of the ambit of school education, in which they carry out considerable work. For the purpose of revitalizing the Christian communities, you are called to appreciate the role of the lay faithful. Their cooperation in the ministry of the Bishops and the Presbyters is indispensable to address today’s challenges and those of the future. It is about caring appropriately for their formation, also incrementing the presence of Ecclesial Movements and Associations. These, where they are well guided by Pastors, arouse appreciation everywhere for the missionary commitment and for the Christian joy they diffuse, always working in tune with the pastoral lines of the particular Churches and well inserted in the dioceses and parishes.

The weakening of the family, caused also by the process of secularization, requires the Church’s commitment to persevere in the programs of formation for marriage, without forgetting the indispensable work with the new generations, for their Christian formation. Elderly people also must not be absent from your concerns; many of them find themselves alone and abandoned today, because the disposable culture, unfortunately, is spreading somewhat everywhere. Do not tire of stressing, with your word and actions, that the presence and participation of the elderly in social life is indispensable for the good trajectory of a people.

Dear Brother Bishops, I wish to express to you my appreciation for the work of evangelization that, despite many difficulties, you are carrying out in Greece. The juridical recognition of the Catholic Church by the competent Authorities is an event of great importance, which helps you to look to the future with greater serenity, committing yourselves today with confident dynamism and with the enthusiasm of those who are witnesses of the Lord, dead and risen. I encourage you to persevere with evangelical gladness in your mission. I entrust you, the priests, the consecrated persons and all the lay faithful of your dioceses to the intercession of the Holy Virgin and, while I ask you to pray for me and for my ministry, I impart to you my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing.

[Translation by ZENIT]
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