During their “ad limina” visit today at the Vatican, bishops from the Episcopal Conference of Panama were encouraged by Pope Benedict to lead Catholics in becoming “authentic disciples of Christ” as the world becomes increasingly secularized.
The Holy Father began his remarks to them by praising the bishops’ initiatives “to sow the Word of God in the hearts of Panamanians and to accompany them on their journey to maturity in the faith, that they may become authentic disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ."
This “missionary activity of the priests, religious and lay people” is a “reason for joy,” the Pope exclaimed. Their efforts contrast with “the growing secularization of society that invades all aspects of daily life.” This societal coarsening “encourages a mentality in which God is effectively absent from human life and conscience, and often uses the communications media to spread individualism, hedonism, and ideologies and customs that undermine the very foundations of marriage, the family and Christian morals."
To combat these challenges, the Pope continued, a “profound knowledge of the Lord Jesus and sincere love for Him” is needed. This love, Benedict explained, can be achieved through “meditating upon Sacred Scripture, adequate doctrinal and spiritual formation, constant prayer, the frequent receipt of the Sacrament of Penance, conscientious and active participation in Mass, and the practice of works of charity and mercy."
Focusing on the current “serious human problems” in the country, the Pope emphasized the pressing need for the Church in Panama to “provide lights.”
The Church can bring these lights to society by promoting “a moral consensus of society on fundamental values,” he said. One of the vitally important ways that this can be done is by using the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, which “enables a more profound and systematic knowledge of the ecclesial guidelines which must be applied, especially by the laity, in the political, social and economic fields," the Pontiff said.
If the Church helps provide these “lights,” the Holy Father said, “Christian hope may illuminate the people of Panama, who thirst to know the truth about God and about man amidst the phenomena of poverty, youth violence, deficiencies in education, healthcare and housing, harassment by innumerable sects and corruption, which, to various degrees, disturb their lives and prevent their integral development."