Unity, formation and gospel message essential, Pope tells Belarusian prelates

Vatican City, Dec 17, 2009 / 05:56 pm (CNA).- In an audience with the bishops of Belarus today, the Pope reminded the bishops of the importance of bearing witness to the lasting message of the Gospel as they remind society that there is something beyond the "temptations of secularization, hedonism and relativism."

The bishops, who were in Rome on their annual "ad limina" visits, met with the Pontiff before returning home. They were reminded not only an impending agreement between the Holy See and the country of Belarus, but also of the tasks that await them in their own dioceses.

The Pope began by reminding the bishops how important it is to constantly announce the eternal message of the Gospel with enthusiasm and to remind society that there is something beyond the "temptations of secularization, hedonism, and relativism, signs of which are the problems of the falling birth-rate, the fragility of families and the illusion of finding fortune outside the homeland."

Speaking to the bishops in their role of as shepherds, Pope Benedict reminded them that as pastors they ought "to underline the power of the faith, a faith rooted in solid tradition, in order to contribute to preserving the deep-rooted Christian identity of the nation, while maintaining respectful dialogue with other cultures and religions."

To accomplish this goal, the Pope mentioned a need for good formation programs, especially for seminarians. He asked the bishops to ensure that the seminarians "are given a solid and rigorous spiritual and theological formation, and receive due guidance as they undertake a serious and profound examination of the divine call. The current situation of our society requires a particularly attentive discernment."

The Holy Father also noted that education, or formation in the faith, is also of vital significance. "Today we are living though a kind of 'emergency' in this delicate and vital sector, and it is necessary to increase our efforts in order to ensure that people, and above all the new generations, receive a valid formation," he said.

The Pope also noted that the example of unity within the bishop's conference "apart from facilitating the announcement of the Gospel, will favor relations with the civil authorities and, in particular, ecumenical relations."

The recent Catholic-Orthodox meeting in Cyprus was raised by the Holy Father, who encouraged the bishops to facilitate dialogue with, and welcome the contribution of the small Greek-Orthodox community in Belarus. Like the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Churches "are strongly committed to reflecting on how to respond to the challenges of our time, in order to transmit Christ's message faithfully," the Pope observed.


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