Here is a ZENIT translation of Pope Francis’ address to the bishops of Latvia and Estonia this morning in the Vatican on the occasion of their ad limina visit:
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
I received you joyfully on the occasion of your visit ad limina Apostolorum; I greet each one of you cordially and the particular Churches that the Lord has entrusted to your paternal guidance.
Our meeting enables us to reinforce the bonds of fraternity that bind us also from a distance, given that we share the episcopal vocation and service to the People of God.
The Lord has chosen you to work in a society that, after being oppressed for long by regimes founded on ideologies contrary to human dignity and freedom, today is called to measure itself against other dangerous deceptions, such as secularism and relativism. If this can render your pastoral action more difficult, I exhort you to continue tirelessly, without ever losing confidence in proclaiming the Gospel of Christ, word of salvation for men of all times and all cultures.
You are not alone in this renewed evangelization. You have your priests who, though few and of varied providences, are at your side with respect, obedience and generosity. Together with them you feel the urgency of an active vocational pastoral that, leaning on prayer, asks the “lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38), takes charge to sensitize families, parishes and the whole Christian community, so that youngsters and young people are helped to render themselves available to God’s call.
Ever thinking of priests, I encourage you to take good care of their formation, be it on the plane of theological and ecclesial preparation, be it on that of human maturity, rooted in a solid spirituality and characterized by a cordial openness and capable of discernment of the reality of the world in which we live.
Moreover, for the growth and journey of your communities the presence of men and women of consecrated life is all the more precious. Especially in this Year dedicated to them, it is opportune to make them understand that they are appreciated not only for the service they render, but even before for the intrinsic richness of their charisms and their witness, by the very fact that they are spreading, in the midst of the People of God, the perfume of Christ followed in the way of the evangelical counsels. However, the consecrated also need to be supported, be it spiritually as well as materially, also through common celebrations and opportune moments of encounter and intense spirituality, to foster mutual familiarity and knowledge, and to reinforce around the Bishop the sense of belonging to the particular Church and the joyful willingness to collaborate to its edification.
The involvement of the laity is also indispensable for the evangelizing mission. Thank God, you can count on the commitment of many good Catholics in different ecclesial activities. Your closeness and solicitude will help them to carry forward those responsibilities that, according to the teaching of Vatican Council II, they are called to assume in the cultural, social, political but also charitable and catechetical field. Entrusted to you is the task to watch over and stimulate them so that at the diocesan and parochial level, as well as in the Associations and Ecclesial Movements, they can form their conscience and deepen their sense of the Church, in particular knowledge of her Social Doctrine. The lay faithful are the living means between what we Pastors preach and the different social environments. They must always feel the heart of the Church close!
At the same time, through them that you are in daily contact with the other Christian traditions present in your territory, and together you can sustain the ecumenical dialogue, so necessary today, also in view of that social peace shaken sometimes by ethnic and linguistic differences.
I also wish to share with you the firm will to promote the family, as a gift of God for the fulfilment of man and woman created in his image and as “fundamental cell of society,” “place where one learns to coexist in difference and to belong to others and where the parents transmit the faith to the children” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 66). Instead we must confirm that today marriage is often considered a form of affective gratification which can be constituted in any way and modified according to each one’s sensibility (cf. Ibid.). Unfortunately such a reductive concept also influences the mentality of Christians, causing facility in taking recourse to divorce or de facto separation. We, Pastors, are called to question ourselves on the preparation to marriage of engaged young people and also on how to assist all those who live these situations, so that the children do not become the first victims and the spouses not feel excluded from God’s mercy and the solicitude of the Church, but that they are helped in their journey of faith and the Christian education of the children.
The economic and social crisis that has also assailed your countries has, unfortunately, fostered emigration, so that often one-parent families are found in your communities, in need of special pastoral care. The absence of the father or the mother in many families entails for the other spouse greater effort, in all senses, for the growth of the children. Your care and the pastoral charity of your priests, united with the active closeness of the communities, is truly precious for these families.
Dear Brothers, in all your ministry I would like you to feel my affection and support, as I also feel consoled by your fraternal charity, witnessed by this visit. While I thank you for the prayers that you and your communities raise to the Lord for me and for my service to the Church, I entrust you to the maternal intercession of Mary Most Holy and to the protection of Saint Meinard, and from my heart I bless you, the priests, the men and women Religious and all the lay faithful entrusted to your pastoral care.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]