Pope Francis addressed the Bishops of Poland who are in Rome for their ad limina visit, saying they are “called to build communion and peace, rooted in fraternal love.”
He also said they must “offer an encouraging example to all”, bringing “the strength of hope” to the Polish people.”
The visit comes several months before the canonization of Blessed John Paul II in April. The Holy Father called the future saint a “great Pastor” who “guides us from Heaven, and reminds us of the importance of spiritual and pastoral communion between bishops.”
The Pope said that his conversations with the bishops confirmed that while the Church in Poland has great potential for faith, prayer and charity, there is “a certain decline in various aspects of Christian life.”
This, he said, requires “discernment, and a search for underlying reasons and methods for facing new challenges, such as, for example, the idea of freedom without limits, hostile tolerance or indeed distrust of the truth, or resistance to the Church’s legitimate opposition to dominant relativism.”
Regarding the role of the family in society, the Pope stressed that they should occupy a central place in the pastoral care of bishops. “Nowadays marriage tends to be viewed as a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will,” he said.
“Unfortunately this vision also influences the mentality of Christians, promoting a tendency towards divorce or separation. Pastors are called upon to ask themselves how they can help those who experience this situation, so that they are not excluded from God’s mercy, from the fraternal love of other Christians and the care of the Church for their salvation; on how to help them not to abandon their faith and to enable them to raise their children in the fullness of Christian experience.”
The Holy Father called on the bishops to look on ways to improve the preparation of young people for marriage, as well as to help families to appreciate both moments of joy and pain. The Pope also spoke on the pastoral care of both young people and the elderly, whom he called, “the hope of the Church.”
A good opportunity is offered by catechesis which reaches the majority of Polish schoolchildren, who reach a good level of understanding of the truth of faith. “The Christian religion, however, is not an abstract science, but rather the essential knowledge of Christ, a personal relationship with God Who is love,” he said.
Addressing the theme of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, the 77 year old Pontiff stressed the need for a missionary spirit, “of the wish to go out to the peripheries, with an ever-renewed missionary conversion to seek or encounter those who await Christ’s Good News.”
Concluding his remarks, Pope Francis stressed the need to care for the poor in Poland, where despite the growing economic development, “there are many who are in need, unemployed, homeless, sick, and marginalised, and also many families – especially larger family units – who do not have sufficient means to live and to educate their children. “
“Be close to them! I know how much the Church does in Poland in this field, demonstrating great generosity not only at a national level but also in other countries throughout the world. I thank you and your communities for your work. Continue to encourage your priests, religious and all faithful to have the ‘imagination of charity’, and to practice it at all times,” he said.