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Benedict XVI's Address to Irish Bishops

10/30/2006 - 6:10 AM PST

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"Sound Catechesis and Careful 'Formation of the Heart' Are Needed"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 30, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered Saturday to the bishops of Ireland on the occasion of their five-yearly visit to Rome. The Pope had received the prelates in individual audiences last week.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

In the words of a traditional Irish greeting, a hundred thousand welcomes to you, the Bishops of Ireland, on the occasion of your ad Limina visit. As you venerate the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, may you draw inspiration from the courage and vision of these two great saints, who so faithfully led the way in the Church's mission of proclaiming Christ to the world. Today you have come to strengthen the bonds of communion with the Successor of Peter, and I gladly express my appreciation for the gracious words addressed to me on your behalf by Archbishop Seán Brady, President of your Episcopal Conference. The constant witness of countless generations of Irish people to their faith in Christ and their fidelity to the Holy See has shaped Ireland at the deepest level of her history and culture. We are all aware of the outstanding contribution that Ireland has made to the life of the Church, and the extraordinary courage of her missionary sons and daughters who have carried the Gospel message far beyond her shores. Meanwhile, the flame of faith has continued bravely burning at home through all the trials afflicting your people in the course of their history. In the words of the Psalmist, "I will sing for ever of your love, O Lord, through all ages my mouth shall proclaim your truth" (Ps 89:1).

The present time brings many new opportunities to bear witness to Christ and fresh challenges for the Church in Ireland. You have spoken about the consequences for society of the rise in prosperity that the last fifteen years have brought. After centuries of emigration, which involved the pain of separation for so many families, you are experiencing for the first time a wave of immigration. Traditional Irish hospitality is finding unexpected new outlets. Like the wise householder who brings forth from his treasure "what is new and what is old" (Mt 13:52), your people need to view the changes in society with discernment, and here they look to you for leadership. Help them to recognize the inability of the secular, materialist culture to bring true satisfaction and joy. Be bold in speaking to them of the joy that comes from following Christ and living according to his commandments. Remind them that our hearts were made for the Lord and that they find no peace until they rest in him (cf. Saint Augustine, Confessions, 1:1).

So often the Church's counter-cultural witness is misunderstood as something backward and negative in today's society. That is why it is important to emphasize the Good News, the life-giving and life-enhancing message of the Gospel (cf. Jn 10:10). Even though it is necessary to speak out strongly against the evils that threaten us, we must correct the idea that Catholicism is merely "a collection of prohibitions". Sound catechesis and careful "formation of the heart" are needed here, and in this regard you are blessed in Ireland with solid resources in your network of Catholic schools, and in so many dedicated religious and lay teachers who are seriously committed to the education of the young. Continue to encourage them in their task and ensure that their catechetical programs are based on The Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as the new Compendium. Superficial presentations of Catholic teaching must be avoided, because only the fullness of the faith can communicate the liberating power of the Gospel. By exercising vigilance over the quality of the syllabuses and the course-books used and by proclaiming the Church's doctrine in its entirety, you are carrying out your responsibility to "preach the word … in season and out of season … unfailing in patience and in teaching" (2 Tim 4:2).

In the exercise of your pastoral ministry, you have had to respond in recent years to many heart-rending cases of sexual abuse of minors. These are all the more tragic when the abuser is a cleric. The wounds caused by such acts run deep, and it is an urgent task to rebuild confidence and trust where these have been damaged. In your continuing efforts to deal effectively with this problem, it is important to establish the truth of what happened in the past, to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again, to ensure that the principles of justice are fully respected and, above all, to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes. In this way, the Church in Ireland will grow stronger and be ever more capable of giving witness to the redemptive power of the Cross of Christ. I pray that by ...

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