Pope Benedict XVI has told bishops of the United States not to be silenced by those who seek to muzzle Catholicism in public life.
“Despite attempts to still the Church’s voice in the public square, many people of good will continue to look to her for wisdom, insight and sound guidance,” Pope Benedict said in his address to 20 bishops of New York gathered in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace on Nov. 26.
The Pope called upon them to “exercise the prophetic dimension of your episcopal ministry by speaking out, humbly yet insistently, in defense of moral truth, and offering a word of hope, capable of opening hearts and minds to the truth that sets us free.”
New York's bishops are in Rome for their regular “ad limina” visit to update the Pope and the Vatican on the health of the Church in their state. Their delegation is the second of 15 U.S. groups that will make their way to Rome in the coming months.
The dioceses represented this morning were New York, Albany, Brooklyn, Buffalo, Ogdensburg, Rochester, Rockville Centre and Syracuse.
At the Apostolic Palace, they heard from Pope Benedict about the need for a “new evangelization” of the United States, where people of many religious and political persuasions have shown an “increased sense of concern … for the future of our democratic societies.”
Their concern stems from “a troubling breakdown in the intellectual, cultural and moral foundations of social life,” accompanied by “a growing sense of dislocation and insecurity, especially among the young, in the face of wide-ranging societal changes.”
A new evangelization of this society, the Pope said, would require spiritual and intellectual renewal within the Church.
“We ourselves are the first to need re-evangelization,” he said, adding that “only through such interior renewal will we be able to discern and meet the spiritual needs of our age with the ageless truth of the Gospel.”
Catholic universities, he noted, should play a leading role in bringing the Gospel to society. Pope Benedict praised those schools that had found “a renewed sense of their ecclesial mission” and shown faithfulness to their Catholic identity.
“Young people have a right to hear clearly the Church’s teaching and, most importantly, to be inspired by the coherence and beauty of the Christian message,” the Pope stated, “so that they in turn can instill in their peers a deep love of Christ and his Church.”
He praised the bishops for tackling clerical abuse, saying the Church's “conscientious efforts to confront this reality” could “help the broader community to recognize the causes, true extent and devastating consequences of sexual abuse, and to respond effectively to this scourge which affects every level of society.”
Pope Benedict added that the Church is “rightly held to exacting standards in this regard,” and said “all other institutions, without exception, should be held to the same standards.”
The Pope also welcomed the new English translation of the Mass, which parishes across the nation will begin using this weekend.
He said the new translation should inspire an “ongoing catechesis,” helping the faithful grasp “the true nature of the liturgy” as a participation in “Christ’s saving sacrifice for the redemption of the world.”
The Pope indicated that a right understanding of worship was essential for the Church's mission in society.
“A weakened sense of the meaning and importance of Christian worship,” he observed, “can only lead to a weakened sense of the specific and essential vocation of the laity to imbue the temporal order with the spirit of the Gospel.”
In the afternoon the visiting bishops celebrated Mass together at the basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, where the apostle St. Paul is buried.
The “ad limina” visit takes its name from the Latin phrase “ad limina apostolorum,” meaning “to the threshold of the apostles” Sts. Peter and Paul. The visiting bishops offered Mass at St. Peter's tomb yesterday.