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Benedict XVI's Address to the Bishops of Atlantic Canada

5/22/2006 - 6:15 AM PST

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"No Effort Can Be Spared in Finding Effective Pastoral Initiatives"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 21, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered on Saturday in English to prelates of the episcopal conference of Atlantic Canada, who in recent days were granted individual audiences, on the occasion of their five-yearly visit to Rome.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

1. "Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord" (1 Timothy 1:2). With fraternal affection I cordially welcome you, the bishops of New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. I thank Bishop Lahey for the kind sentiments expressed on your behalf. I warmly reciprocate them and assure you and those entrusted to your pastoral care of my prayers.

Your visit "ad limina apostolorum" is an opportunity to give thanks to God for the work of those who have tirelessly preached the Gospel throughout the length and breadth of your country. It is also an occasion to strengthen in faith, hope and charity your bonds of communion with the Bishop of Rome, and to affirm your commitment to make the face of Christ increasingly more visible within the Church and society, through consistent witness to the Gospel that is Jesus Christ himself.

2. Canada enjoys a proud heritage steeped in rich social diversity. Central to the cultural soul of the nation is Christ's immeasurable gift of faith which has been received and celebrated over the centuries with deep rejoicing by the peoples of your land.

Like many countries, however, Canada is today suffering from the pervasive effects of secularism. The attempt to promote a vision of humanity apart from God's transcendent order and indifferent to Christ's beckoning light, removes from the reach of ordinary men and women the experience of genuine hope.

One of the more dramatic symptoms of this mentality, clearly evident in your own region, is the plummeting birth rate. This disturbing testimony to uncertainty and fear, even if not always conscious, is in stark contrast with the definitive experience of true love which by its nature is marked by trust, seeks the good of the beloved, and looks to the eternal (cf. "Deus Caritas Est," no. 6).

Faced with the many social ills and moral ambiguities which follow in the wake of a secularist ideology, Canadians look to you to be men of hope, preaching and teaching with passion the splendor of the truth of Christ who dispels the darkness and illuminates the way to renew ecclesial and civic life, educating consciences and teaching the authentic dignity of the person and human society.

Particularly in districts which also suffer from the painful consequences of economic decline, such as unemployment and unwanted emigration, ecclesial leadership bears much fruit when, in its concern for the common good, it generously seeks to support civil authorities in their task of promoting regeneration in the community.

In this regard, I note with satisfaction the success of the anniversary events celebrated last year in the Archdiocese of St. John's, marked by a spirit of cooperation with various civic authorities. Such initiatives manifest recognition of the need for spiritual strength at the heart of society. In fact, "it is quite impossible to separate the response to people's material and social needs from the fulfillment of the profound desires of their hearts" (Papal Message for Lent 2006).

3. Dear Brothers, your reports clearly indicate the seriousness with which you are responding to the need for pastoral renewal. I understand that with aging clergy and many isolated communities the challenges are great. Yet, if the Church is going to satisfy the thirst of men and women for truth and authentic values upon which to build their lives no effort can be spared in finding effective pastoral initiatives to make Jesus Christ known.

Thus it is of great importance that the catechetical and religious education programs which you are implementing continue to deepen the faithful's understanding and love of our Lord and his Church, and reawaken in them the zeal for Christian witness which has its root in the sacrament of baptism.

In this regard, particular care must be taken to ensure that the intrinsic relationship between the Church's magisterium, individuals' faith, and testimony in public life is preserved and promoted. Only in this way can we hope to overcome the debilitating split between the Gospel and culture (cf. "Evangelii Nuntiandi," no. 20).

Of notable importance are your Catechists. They have embraced with great courage the burning desire that was St. Paul's: "Deliver ... as of primary importance what I also received" (1 Corinthians 15:3). Teaching the faith cannot be reduced to a mere transmission of "things" or words or even a body of abstract truths. The Church's tradition is ...

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