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Papal Address to Puerto Rican Bishops

7/29/2007 - 6:10 AM PST

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"You Should Develop a Specific Vocations Apostolate"


VATICAN CITY, JULY 29, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's June 30 address to the bishops of Puerto Rico, who were in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

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ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI TO MEMBERS OF THE BISHOPS' CONFERENCE OF PUERTO RICO ON THEIR "AD LIMINA" VISIT
Saturday, 30 June 2007

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

I receive you with great joy, Pastors of God's pilgrim Church in Puerto Rico, who have come to Rome on your ad limina visit to strengthen the deep bonds that unite you with this Apostolic See. Through each one of you, I send my cordial greeting and express my affection and esteem to the priests, religious communities and lay faithful of your respective particular Churches.

I am grateful for the friendly words which Archbishop Roberto Octavio GonzŠlez Nieves of San Juan de Puerto Rico, President of your Bishops' Conference, has expressed to me on behalf of all. He has explained the anxieties and hopes of your pastoral ministry, which aims to guide the People of God on the path of salvation by strongly proclaiming the Catholic faith for a better formation of the faithful.

The quinquennial reports demonstrate your anxiety about the challenges and problems which must be confronted at this time in history. Indeed, in recent years many things have changed in the social, economic and also religious contexts. These changes have sometimes led to religious indifference and a certain moral relativism which influence religious practice and indirectly affect the structures of society itself.

This religious situation calls you into question as Pastors. In addition, it requires that you remain united to make the Lord's presence more tangible among men and women through joint pastoral projects that respond better to the new reality.

It is fundamental to preserve and increase the gift of unity which Jesus implored from the Father for his disciples (cf. Jn 17:11). You are called to live and to bear witness to Christ's desire for his Church's unity in your respective dioceses.

Moreover, far from threatening this unity, the possible differences in local customs and traditions can contribute to enriching the common faith. And, as successors of the Apostles, you must be eager to "maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph 4:3).

Therefore, I would like to recall that all, especially Bishops and priests, are called to an inalienable mission which strongly binds you to ensuring that the Church is a place where the mystery of divine love is taught and lived. Only an authentic spirituality of communion, visibly expressed in mutual collaboration and fraternal life, will make this possible.

Priests constitute a sector that demands your prime pastoral attention. They are in the front line of evangelization and are especially in need of your care and personal closeness. Your relationship with them must not be merely institutional. Rather, as your true sons, friends and brothers, it should be inspired above all by love (cf. I Pt 4:8) as an expression of episcopal fatherhood. This must be expressed in a special way to priests who are sick or elderly, as well as to those who are in difficult circumstances.

Priests, for their part, must remember that they are first and foremost men of God. Thus, they must nurture their own spiritual life and their continuing formation.

All their ministerial work "must begin effectively with prayer", as St Albert the Great said ("Commentary on Dionysius' Mystical Theology," 15). Every priest must find in this encounter with God the strength to exercise his ministry with greater devotion and dedication, setting an example of availability and detachment from all that is superfluous.

In thinking of future candidates to the priesthood and consecrated life, it is necessary to highlight the importance of ceaseless prayer to the Lord of the Harvest (cf. Mt 9:38), so that he will give many and holy vocations to the Church in Puerto Rico, especially in the present situation in which young people often find it difficult to respond to the Lord's call to the priestly or consecrated life.

Therefore, you should develop a specific vocations apostolate which will encourage those in charge of the pastoral care of youth to be daring mediators of the Lord's call.

Above all, you should not be afraid to suggest his call to young men and subsequently accompany them with assiduous care in both the human and spiritual environments, so that they may ever more clearly discern their vocational decision.

With regard to the formation of candidates to the priesthood, the Bishop must take the greatest pains to choose the most suitable and best qualified educators for this role.

Given the concrete circumstances ...

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