At a meeting at Fatima's "Casa Nossa Senhora do Carmo" today, Pope Benedict encouraged his brother bishops to be "first evangelizers."
This role calls on Bishops to:
... understand the diverse social and cultural factors, to evaluate their spiritual deficiencies and to utilize effectively your pastoral resources; what is decisive, however, is the ability to inculcate in all those engaged in the work of evangelization a true desire for holiness, in the awareness that the results derive above all from our union with Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Father says that today demands a "new missionary vigour on the part of Christians," this means the formation of a mature laity, who are "identified with the Church," and understand the complex changes happening in our world.
Authentic witnesses to Jesus Christ are needed, above all in those human situations where the silence of the faith is most widely and deeply felt: among politicians, intellectuals, communications professionals who profess and who promote a monocultural ideal, with disdain for the religious and contemplative dimension of life. In such circles are found some believers who are ashamed of their beliefs and who even give a helping hand to this type of secularism, which builds barriers before Christian inspiration. And yet, dear brothers, may all those who defend the faith in these situations, with courage, with a vigorous Catholic outlook and in fidelity to the magisterium, continue to receive your help and your insightful encouragement in order to live out, as faithful lay men and women, their Christian freedom.
On this idea the Holy Father lamented that simply proclaiming the message of the Gospel does not penetrate people's hearts. What moves people though is "the encounter with believing persons who, through their faith, draw others to the grace of Christ by bearing witness to him."
The Holy Father also said at times it may feel like we are enduring a "winter in the Church." However, he says the Holy Spirit is creating a "new springtime" with the various eccesial communities that have been forming. The Pope encouraged the Bishops to welcome these groups, and to guide them.
Noting the Year for Priests, the Holy Father also invited the Bishops to rediscover their role as father to their priests. See the full text of Pope Benedict's address below:
MEETING WITH THE BISHOPS OF PORTUGAL, in FATIMA
Address of the Holy Father
Dear Brother Bishops,
I thank God for giving me this occasion to meet all of you here at the Shrine of Fatima, the spiritual heart of Portugal, where multitudes of pilgrims from all over the world come looking to discover or to reinforce their certainty in the truths of Heaven. Among them has come from Rome the Successor of Peter, accepting the oft-repeated invitations and moved by a debt of gratitude to the Virgin Mary, who herself transmitted to her seers and pilgrims an intense love for the Holy Father which has borne fruit in a great multitude which prays, with Jesus as its guide: Peter, “I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (Lk 22:32).
CNS photo/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters