Bishops from the afflicted country of Myanmar visited with Pope Benedict at the Vatican today, as they concluded their “ad limina” journey. In his time with the bishops, the Pope expressed his pleasure at the increase in religious vocations and the involvement of the laity in their country.
As he began his address to the bishops, Pope Benedict brought to mind that, "the Church in Myanmar is known and admired for its solidarity with the poor and needy.” Cyclone Nargis has made this “especially evident," he told the prelates.
"During these difficult days, I know how grateful the Burmese people are for the Church's efforts to provide shelter, food, water, and medicine to those still in distress," he said, assuring the bishops that the Universal Church "is joined spiritually with those who mourn the loss of loved ones.
In what was perhaps a reference to the government restrictions on foreign aid, the Pope also prayed that, “God open the hearts of all so that a concerted effort may be made to facilitate and co-ordinate the ongoing endeavor to bring relief to the suffering and rebuild the country's infrastructure.”
The charity and generosity of the Church in Myanmar, the Holy Father said, "shines forth in a particular way through the religious life. ... I am pleased to note that an increasing number of women are responding to the call to consecrated life in your region."
Benedict also said he was happy to see that, "Similar signs of hope are seen in the rising number of vocations to the priesthood. These men are both 'called together' and 'sent out to preach' to be examples of faithfulness and holiness for the People of God.” The Holy Father encouraged the prelates of Myanmar "to continue making the necessary sacrifices to ensure that seminarians receive the integral formation that will enable them to become authentic heralds of the new evangelization."
The laity’s “generous and prompt response” is also integral to the spreading the Good News, the Pope said. “They too are in need of a robust and dynamic Christian formation which will inspire them to carry the Gospel message to their workplaces, families, and to society at large."
During their meeting the bishops presented the Pope with a report on the Church in Myanmar that mentioned "the enthusiasm with which the laity are organizing many new catechetical and spiritual initiatives, often involving great numbers of young people." Benedict XVI told the bishops that the young must be reminded “to turn continually to the nourishment of the Eucharist through participation in the liturgy and silent contemplation."
The Holy Father also expressed his "sincere gratitude" to the prelates for their “faithful ministry in the midst of difficult circumstances and setbacks often beyond your control."
The bishops left their audience with the Pope with his reminder that, "Paul exhorts us to keep our gaze fixed on the glory that awaits us so as never to despair in the pain and sufferings of today."