(Vatican Radio) The Church is called to defend the family and marriage from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature, said Pope Benedict on Friday, as he greeted the first group of Bishops from France to travel to Rome on their 5 yearly Ad Limina pilgrimage. Emer McCarthy reports:
The group from western France – led by Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard - were received by the Holy Father in Castel Gandolfo, who focused his address on the role of the laity in the life of the Church as well as the risk of an excessive "bureaucratization" of ministry in the diocese.
He urged the prelates to defend the family, which is threatened today by wrong conceptions of human nature. "Defense of life and the family in society - the Pope said - is not retrograde, but rather prophetic" because it helps to "promote the values that allow the full development of the human person created in the image and likeness of God" :
Quoting from Sacramentum Caritatis, the Pope said. “The good that the Church and society as a whole expect from marriage and from the family founded upon marriage is so great as to call for full pastoral commitment to this particular area." Marriage and the family, he added, "are institutions that must be promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature, since whatever is injurious to them is in fact injurious to human coexistence as such".
Pope Benedict also focused on life in the Christian community, noting that "the solution to the diocesan pastoral needs" can not be limited to " organizational issues".
"There is a risk - he observed – of over emphasizing efficiency resulting in a kind of bureaucratization of pastoral care that focuses on structures, organizations and programs, which can become self-referential for the exclusive use of the members of these structures ". This, he added, will have little effect on "the life of Christians who distant from regular practice." Evangelization, he warned, requires that we start "from a personal encounter with the Lord, a dialogue rooted in prayer."
The Pope then turned his attention to the laity who are called to carry out duties in the Church: “We must encourage respect for the difference between the common priesthood of all the faithful and the ministerial priesthood of those who have been ordained." Differences "not only in degree, but in their very nature." For this reason, he said, "fidelity to the deposit of faith as taught by the Magisterium" must be encouraged and "professed by the whole Church." It is important, he said, that the collaboration between laity and priests "always take place within the framework of ecclesial communion around the bishop who is its guarantor."
Finally, Benedict XVI recalled his Apostolic visit to France in 2008. A visit, he reiterated, which aimed to stress the Christian roots of the country that provide a solid basis on which to support efforts to the new evangelization.