This morning at the Vatican, Pope Benedict welcomed bishops from Bangladesh and spoke to them about the need to continue forming the faithful in their care as well as the need to be witnesses of the faith to non-Christians.
"Personal integrity and holiness of life are essential components of a bishop's witness… Bishops are called to be patient, mild and gentle in the spirit of the beatitudes,” the Holy Father reminded the visiting prelates. "In this way they lead others to see all human realities in the light of the Kingdom of Heaven.”
The Pope explained that this vision is important for Bangladeshi Catholics to see because, “Many of your people suffer from poverty, isolation or discrimination, and they look to you for spiritual guidance that will lead them to recognize in faith, and to experience in anticipation, that they are truly blessed by God."
Thorough training in how to effectively transmit the faith was also a concern of Pope Benedict since well trained catechists are essential for preparing lay people to receive the Sacraments. “This is especially true in the increasingly important work of preparing young men and women to recognize the Sacrament of Matrimony as a life-long covenant of faithful love and as a path to holiness,” he said.
"I have often mentioned,” the Pope added, "my concern regarding the difficulty modern men and women have in making a lifelong commitment. There is an urgent need on the part of all Christians to reassert the joy of total self-giving in response to the radical call of the Gospel. One clear sign of this radical commitment is seen in the many vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life the Church in your country is currently experiencing."
Addressing the Bangladeshi bishops as his “dear brothers," Benedict XVI spoke of how much they are able to offer their nation through their efforts to inspire tolerance, moderation and understanding. “By encouraging people who share important values to co-operate for the common good, you help to consolidate your country's stability and to maintain it for the future.”
Pope Benedict then turned his attention to religious atmosphere of Bangladesh.
Interestingly, the Holy Father described dialogue between the various religious groups in the country and the Catholic Church as an "essential component of the Church's mission 'ad gentes'.” While saying that sharing the Gospel with non-Christians is a delicate task, the Pope noted that it “cannot fail to have a positive influence on the social climate of your country.”
This inter-religious dialogue cannot be entered into without a “thorough preparation of clergy and lay people, first of all by offering them a deeper knowledge of their own faith and then by helping them to grow in their understanding of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and the other religions present in your region," the Holy Father said.
As a final note, Pope Benedict reminded the bishops of the Pauline Year, which will commence on June 28, 2008. This year, he said, "will be for the whole Church a renewed invitation to announce with unfailing courage the Good News of Christ Jesus. ... I am aware of the difficulties of this mission entrusted to you. Like the first Christians, you live as a small community among a large non-Christian population. Your presence is a sign that the preaching of the Gospel, which began in Jerusalem and Judea, continues to spread to the ends of the earth in accordance with the universal destination the Lord willed for it."