Share the Gospel to transform lives, pope tells bishops
By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY - Christians must trust in the power of the Gospel to awaken people’s consciences and promote reconciliation, but that can happen only if they hear the Gospel first, Pope Benedict XVI said.
“Faith is the most important gift that we have been given in life; we cannot keep it just for ourselves,” the pope said Sept. 7 during a meeting with 92 bishops ordained in the past year and named to dioceses in the church’s mission territories.
The new bishops were participating in a Sept. 2-15 seminar, often referred to as “new bishops’ school,” sponsored by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
A similar seminar, sponsored by the Congregation for Bishops, was scheduled for Sept. 11-20 for bishops named in other parts of the world.
Introducing the 92 missionary bishops to the pope, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, said 63 of the bishops were from Africa, 17 from Asia, six from Latin America and six from Oceania.
The cardinal told the pope many of them work “in extremely difficult circumstances and situations,” including places where Christians are discriminated against or even face persecution.
Meeting the bishops in his summer villa at Castel Gandolfo, 18 miles southeast of Rome, Pope Benedict said he prayed that their trust in the Lord always would be rock solid; “the church is his and he is the one who will guide it in times of difficulty and in times of serenity.”
The people and countries in the church’s mission lands are feeling the brunt of the global social and economic crises, the pope said, and the church in those areas is particularly involved in responding to the emergencies caused by rising food prices, famine, and poor access to health care and education.
In addition to dealing with natural disasters, he said, many of their people face “cultural and religious discrimination, intolerance and bias, which are the fruit of fundamentalisms ... that lead to undervaluing, if not denying, the right to religious freedom and respect for the weakest.”
Despite all the challenges, the pope said, the church must continue to live and share the Gospel, offering salvation to others and trusting in faith’s power to renew society, to awaken consciences and to promote reconciliation and unity.
“Faith is given so that it will be shared,” he said.
Pope Benedict told the bishops that their communities are filled with Christians who are enthusiastic about their faith, but they also need help learning more about it and about how to live as Christians in everything they do.
“Watch over your flocks, giving special attention to your priests,” he said. “Guide them by example, live in communion with them, be willing to listen to them and welcome them with fatherly benevolence.”
“Do not neglect your primary responsibility as men of God, called to prayer,” the pope told the bishops. “The world today needs people who speak to God in order to be able to speak about God.”
The missionary bishops’ two-week gathering was designed to be a mix of prayer, reflection on the spiritual and pastoral responsibilities of a bishop, and advice on practical matters ranging from their relationship with various Vatican offices and congregations, to guidance in upholding church norms and laws.
Other topics on the agenda included missionary work, communications, interreligious dialogue, defending family life, Catholic social teaching, a bishop’s relationship with his priests and promoting collaboration with laity.
Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops