VATICAN CITY, JUNE 12, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI says bishops need to live the beatitudes, so that their people who suffer poverty or discrimination can find in the prelates’ guidance the faith to recognize God’s blessings.
The Pope affirmed this today when he received in audience the bishops of Bangladesh in Rome for their five-yearly visit.
In his English-language address, he told them: “Bishops are called to be patient, mild and gentle in the spirit of the beatitudes. In this way they lead others to see all human realities in the light of the Kingdom of Heaven.
“Many of your people suffer from poverty, isolation or discrimination, and they look to you for spiritual guidance that will lead them to recognize in faith, and to experience in anticipation, that they are truly blessed by God.”
The Holy Father emphasized the importance of an “effective transmission of the deposit of faith,” noting the need for a sufficient number of lay catechists who are “well prepared and given due recognition by the faithful.”
“As you know from your own pastoral experience, catechists play an integral role in preparing lay people to receive the sacraments,” the Pontiff said. “This is especially true in the increasingly important work of preparing young men and women to recognize the sacrament of matrimony as a life-long covenant of faithful love and as a path to holiness.
“I have often mentioned my concern regarding the difficulty modern men and women have in making a lifelong commitment. There is an urgent need on the part of all Christians to reassert the joy of total self-giving in response to the radical call of the Gospel.”
Benedict XVI lauded a “clear sign of this radical commitment” reflected in the “many vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life the Church in your country is currently experiencing.”
“My dear brothers,” the Bishop of Rome continued, “you have much to offer the nation. In your love for your country you inspire tolerance, moderation and understanding. By encouraging people who share important values to cooperate for the common good, you help to consolidate your country’s stability and to maintain it for the future.
“These efforts, however subtle, give effective support to the majority of your fellow citizens who uphold the country’s noble tradition of mutual respect, tolerance and social harmony.”
Benedict XVI also mentioned the role of the bishops in dialogue with other religions.
Such dialogue, “based on mutual respect and truth, cannot fail to have a positive influence on the social climate of your country,” he said. “The delicacy of this task requires thorough preparation of clergy and lay people, first of all by offering them a deeper knowledge of their own faith and then by helping them to grow in their understanding of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and the other religions present in your region.”
Finally, the Holy Father mentioned the forthcoming Pauline year, “which will be for the whole Church a renewed invitation to announce with unfailing courage the Good News of Christ Jesus. […] I am aware of the difficulties of this mission entrusted to you.
“Like the first Christians, you live as a small community among a large non-Christian population. Your presence is a sign that the preaching of the Gospel, which began in Jerusalem and Judea, continues to spread to the ends of the earth in accordance with the universal destination the Lord willed for it.”
Bangladesh’s population of some 153 million is majority Muslim, also with a large Hindu population. All other religions combined make up less than 1% of the population.