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Benedict XVI's Address to German Bishops

"Church in Germany Needs to Become Ever More Missionary"

COLOGNE, Germany, AUG. 22, 2005 (COL) - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today in Cologne's seminary to the bishops of Germany.

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Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

I bless the Lord who has given me the joy of meeting you here, on German soil, at the conclusion of this 20th World Youth Day. I think we could say that the hand of Providence has been visible during these days, and not only has it given encouragement to me, the Successor of Peter, but it has also offered a sign of hope to the Church in this country, and above all to you, her Pastors. To all of you I renew my heartfelt thanks for the effort you have made in preparing for the event. I particularly thank Cardinal Joachim Meisner and his auxiliaries, and the president of the episcopal conference, Cardinal Karl Lehmann, together with all who have assisted in any way.

As I said this morning at the conclusion of the great Eucharistic celebration at Marienfeld, Germany has witnessed a remarkable pilgrimage in recent days. This was no ordinary group of pilgrims, but a pilgrimage of young people! This event, which the Diocese of Cologne and all of you worked so hard to prepare, has now ended: and what a cause it is for thanksgiving to God, for reflection and for renewed commitment! The much-beloved Pope John Paul II, founder of the World Youth Days, used to say that on these pilgrimages the young people are the protagonists and the Pope, in a certain sense, follows them. A humorous observation, but one which points to a profound truth: Young people, who are searching for the fullness of life despite their weaknesses and limitations, urge their pastors to listen to their questions and to do everything possible to help them understand the one true answer, which is Christ. We need, then, to cherish this gift which God has given to the Church in Germany, to accept the challenge that it presents, and to make good use of the potential it provides.

It should be stressed that this event, while exceptional, is not unique. The Cathedral in Cologne is not, to quote a familiar expression, "a Cathedral in the desert." I am thinking of the many gifts which enrich the Church in Germany. It brings joy to my heart to list them briefly here with you, in the same spirit of praise and thanksgiving that has marked these days of grace. Many people in this country live their faith in an exemplary manner, with great love for the Church, for its pastors and for the Successor of Peter. A good number voluntarily take on what are sometimes demanding responsibilities in diocesan and parish life, in associations and movements, especially in order to help young people.

Many priests, religious and lay people carry out faithful service in pastoral situations that are often difficult. And German Catholics are very generous toward the poor. Many "Fidei Donum" priests and German missionaries carry out their apostolate in distant lands. The Catholic Church maintains a presence in public life through many different institutions. Significant work is being done by the various charitable agencies: Misereor, Adveniat, Missio, Renovabis, as well as diocesan and parish Caritas organizations. Equally vast is the educational work carried out in Catholic schools and other Catholic institutions and organizations on behalf of young people. These are just a few brief examples, incomplete yet significant, which sketch as it were the portrait of a living Church, the Church which gave birth to us in faith and which we have the honor and the joy to serve.

We know that on the face of this Church there are unfortunately also wrinkles, shadows that obscure her splendor. These too we should keep before us, in a spirit of unfailing love, at this moment of celebration and thanksgiving. Secularism and de-Christianization continue to advance. The influence of Catholic ethics and morals is in constant decline. Many people abandon the Church or, if they remain, they accept only a part of Catholic teaching. The religious situation in the East is particularly worrying, since the majority of the population is unbaptized and has no contact with the Church. In each of these problems we recognize a fresh challenge.

You yourselves are more aware of this than anyone, as is evident from your pastoral letter of Sept. 21, 2004, in commemoration of the 1,250th anniversary of the martyrdom of Saint Boniface. In that letter, quoting the Jesuit Father Alfred Delp, you stated that "we have become a mission territory." As a native of this country that I hold so dear, I feel particularly affected by its problems. Today I want to assure you of my affection and solidarity, along with that of the entire College of Bishops, and I encourage you to remain united and to persevere undaunted in your mission. The Church in Germany needs to become ever ...

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