The bishops of Italy met this afternoon with Pope Benedict, who spoke to them about the “urgent task” of education in Christian values, the upcoming Year for Priests, the earthquake that struck the Abruzzo region and the impact of the financial crisis.
The meeting of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI), which began on May 25 and will last until the 29th, is examining the theme: "The educational question: the urgent task of education."
Addressing the bishops, the Pope began by highlighting their effort to establish "an educational project that stems from a coherent and complete vision of man, which can arise only from the perfect image and realization of him we have in Jesus Christ."
This kind of education is particularly necessary since modern society is filled with “relativistic and nihilistic concepts of life” that “exercise a powerful enticement,” the Pope said.
The principal contribution that the Church can make at a time when the legitimacy of education is in doubt is that of “bearing witness to our trust in life and in man, in his reason and in his capacity to love," said the Holy Father.
Forming authentic, responsible Christian men and women requires good educators who place themselves on the “front line” and know how to “unite authority and exemplarity in the task of educating those entrusted to his care,” Benedict asserted. “We ourselves are aware of this, having been given the role of guides among the People of God, guides whom the Apostle Peter invites to tend God's sheep and to 'be examples to the flock.'"
The Pope then referred to the forthcoming Year for Priests, recalling how priestly ministry "is a service to the Church and to Christian people, requiring a profound spirituality ... nourished by prayer and by intense personal union with the Lord, in order to be able to serve our brothers and sisters through preaching, the Sacraments, orderly community life and help for the poor. All priestly ministry reveals ... the importance of commitment to education, so that people may grow freely and responsibly as mature and conscientious Christians.”
"There can be no doubt that the Christian spirit gives renewed vitality to that sense of solidarity so profoundly rooted in the hearts of the Italian people," Benedict XVI added, going on to mention the recent earthquake in the Abruzzo region of Italy and his own visit to the areas affected.
There, he said "I personally witnessed the mourning, the pain and the disasters produced by that terrible event, but also the strength of spirit of those people and the movement of solidarity that immediately arose throughout Italy."
He then turned to consider the economic crisis which "has hit the global community so hard. ... Despite the measures taken at various levels, the social effects of the crisis are still being felt, and seriously felt, especially by the weakest strata of society and by families."
Benedict XVI praised the bishops' “Loan of Hope" initiative as “a moving announcement of the interior conversion generated by the Gospel.” The program will be funded by collections from next Sunday's Mass and will help families affected by the financial crisis.
Finally, the Holy Father considered a particular form of ecclesiastical charity in Italy, "intellectual" charity, of which "one significant example is the commitment to promote a widespread mentality in support of life in its every aspect and moment, with particular concern for lives marked by conditions of fragility and precariousness.”
“Such commitment is well expressed,” he said, “in the manifesto 'Free to live, loving life unto the end,' which sees the Italian Catholic lay people working together to ensure the country does not lack an awareness of the complete truth about man and promotion of the authentic good of people and society."
"Thus," the Pope concluded, "our minds return to the central theme of your assembly - the urgent task of education - which must be rooted in the Word of God and requires spiritual discernment, cultural and social programs, and gratuitous and united witness."