.- As the prelates from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea and the apostolic prefect of Mongolia completed their visit to Pope Benedict today, they received a message from him about the Church in Asia.
The Pope began his talk with the bishops by telling them that their visit to the See of Peter has strengthened the Church's âunity in diversityâ and helped to ensure that âthe tradition handed down by the Apostles" is preserved.
He then praised the growth of the Church in Asia: â[t]he Church in your countries has made remarkable progress since the arrival of missionaries in the region over four hundred years ago, and their return to Mongolia just fifteen years ago.â
The Holy Father attributed this growth to the âoutstanding witness of the Korean Martyrs and others throughout Asia who remained steadfastly faithful to Christ and his Church.â
In their report to Pope Benedict about the Church in Korea, the bishops told him that they are increasingly confronting a secularist mentality. Benedict XVI told them that they must meet this challenge by remaining in Christâs love and by being âeffective shepherds of hopeâ to unite their flocks against secularism.
âWith their eyes fixed on the Lord, the faithful must echo anew the Martyrsâ cry of faith: âwe know and believe the love God has for usâ (1 Jn 4:16). Such faith is sustained and nurtured by an ongoing encounter with Jesus Christ who comes to men and women through the Church: âthe sign and sacrament of communion with God and of unity among all peopleââ, said the Pope.
Benedict XVI also told the bishops that "programs designed to highlight the importance of Sunday Mass should be infused with a sound and stimulating catechesis on the Eucharist. This will foster a renewed understanding of the authentic dynamism of Christian life among your faithful."
He continued his address to the prelates: "I encourage you to ensure that religious are welcomed and supported in their efforts to contribute to the common task of spreading God's Kingdom." By sharing the "living treasures" of their spirituality with the laity, religious "will help to dispel the notion that communion means mere uniformity."
The Pope additionally considered "the importance of the promotion of marriage and family lifeâ calling it a âvital apostolateâ that requires attention as both institutions come under greater pressure.
The final Korean issue that the Holy Father addressed was the delicate situation in North Korea. "I am also aware of the practical gestures of reconciliation undertaken for the wellbeing of those in North Korea. I encourage these initiatives and invoke Almighty God's providential care upon all North Koreans," he said.
"Throughout the ages, Asia has given the Church and the world a host of heroes of the faith. ... May they stand as perennial witnesses to the truth and love which all Christians are called to proclaim."