.- Meeting with the bishops of Portugal late Thursday afternoon in Fatima, the Holy Father called them to rediscover their role as fathers. In this way, he said, they will be better able to provide a powerful witness to the world, guide evangelization, and lead priests and the laity.
The Holy Father's address took place in the House of Our Lady of Mount Carmel at Fatima and followed an address by the president of the Portuguese bishops, Bishop Jorge Ferreira da Costa Ortiga.
In his words, Pope Benedict highlighted the existence of a demand for a "new missionary vigor on the part of Christians" today, featuring a mature laity and authentic witnesses to Jesus Christ. The need is seen especially "in those human situations where the silence of the faith is most widely and deeply felt," he said.
This context, explained the Holy Father, is specifically "among politicians, intellectuals, communications professionals who profess and who promote a mono-cultural ideal, with disdain for the religious and contemplative dimension of life."
He asked for the bishops to be attentive in supporting those who, in such situations, defend the faith with courage, vigor and fidelity.
They should also be aware of overriding social and cultural elements to be able to address spiritual deficiencies and consider a "true desire for holiness" among those who work in evangelization.
The greatest way to attract people to the Jesus is "the encounter with believing persons who, through their faith, draw others to the grace of Christ by bearing witness to him," emphasized Benedict XVI.
In this respect, "The Church needs above all great currents, movements and witnesses of holiness among the ‘Christifideles,’ because it is from holiness that is born every authentic renewal of the Church ..." he said, citing the words of John Paul II.
The Pope recalled the joy he experienced at seeing the members of movements and new ecclesial communities at vespers on Wednesday and said that "thanks to their charisms," the Gospel, faith and tradition are being brought to the people.
He pointed out that the necessary condition for these "new realities" is that they desire to belong to the "one Church," being themselves fundamentally responsible for communion and obedient to bishops.
Referring to the specific charisms of the bishops, the Pope said they must "feel responsible for welcoming these impulses which are gifts for the Church and which give her new vitality," while also helping the movements "find the right way, making some corrections with understanding.
"This is precisely what you must foster or confirm in your priests," he continued, exhorting the Portuguese bishops to rediscover their role as fathers, recovering the "fervor of their origins, the joy of the initial Christian experience."
"For all too long the responsibility of authority as a service aimed at the growth of others and in the first place of priests, has been given second place," he observed.
"Only in this way will the fire of charity blaze strongly enough to impel every Christian to become a source of light and life in the Church and among all men and women."
The Holy Father concluded by asking the bishops, individually and as a conference, to "rekindle" their sense of mercy and compassion to better address needs in society, to be able to respond to "every form of poverty."