On Saturday, Pope Benedict met with his second group of Polish bishops, in Rome for their ad limina visit, whom he charged with renewed pastoral care for priests, seminarians, religious and the laity.
This morning, the Pope received the second group of prelates from the Conference of the Polish Episcopate, who have just completed their "ad limina" visit.
In his remarks to them the Pope stressed the importance of the new evangelization which, he said was one of the major themes and first initiatives of his predecessor, John Paul II.
"Under his guidance”, Benedict said, “we entered this new millennium of Christianity, with an awareness of the constant validity of his call to a new evangelization."
Stressing the primary role of bishops in the duty of evangelization, the Pope pointed out that they are also responsible for "quality of formation in seminaries."
He asked them to bear in mind "not only future priests' intellectual formation for their impending duties, but also their spiritual and emotional formation." Therein, he urged the prelates to implement new guidelines laid down in the recently-published document by the Congregation for Catholic Education concerning candidates for the seminary and priesthood.
"It is important," the Holy Father said, "that the process of spiritual and intellectual formation does not end with the seminary. Constant priestly formation is necessary.”
He then recalled that “in Polish dioceses ... courses, retreats, spiritual exercises and other meetings are organized, during which priests can share their pastoral problems and successes."
He told the bishops that they must "listen attentively to priests and help them in their difficulties," before thanking God for the numerous vocations in Poland and calling on priests to "undertake missionary service or pastoral commitment in countries where there is a lack of clergy."
Religious and laity
Pope Benedict then turned to the pastoral care of the laity, as well as male and female religious and consecrated, who he said, “represent a source of great wealth for the Church.”
In this context, he called on the prelates to specifically watch over female religious communities.
"Nuns who undertake various services in the Church”, the Pope said, “merit supreme respect, and their work must be recognized and appreciated correctly. They must not be denied adequate spiritual support or the possibility of intellectual development and growth in the faith. ... And I particularly call upon you to take to heart the wellbeing of the contemplative orders."
Turning then to the laity, the Pope said that "one of the chief aims of the activity of the laity is the moral renewal of society, which cannot be superficial, partial and instantaneous.”
“One specific task of the laity”, he said, “is participation in public and political life. ... The Church does not identify herself with any one party, political community or political system; she does, however, recall that lay people in public life must bear courageous and coherent witness to Christian values, which have to be affirmed and defended when they are threatened.”
“They must do so publicly,” he stressed, “both in political debates and in the communications media"
"Dialogue undertaken by the Catholic laity on political questions," the Holy Father added, "will prove effective and of service to the common good when it is founded on love for truth, a spirit of service, and united commitment in favor of the common good."
Following the Holy Father's address, Krakow’s Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz took the stage to address the Pope.
"There is a reason”, he said, “for which we would like express our gratitude…and that is your adherence to the person and the work of Servant of God John Paul II.”
“In the first place,” he continued, “we would like to say thank you for your discreet, competent and faithful collaboration throughout such a rich and important pontificate. We can only imagine how precious your wise advice was to John Paul II, both in the most difficult theological questions and in matters concerning the daily life of the Universal Church.”
He also thanked the Pope “for the delicacy with which you accompanied your dear predecessor in the final days of his sickness and for your testimony as dean of the College of Cardinals during the funeral,” adding that no one could forget “your continuous recollection of the teaching and example of John Paul II in your speeches and pastoral activities.”
The Archbishop likewise expressed his gratitude “for the decision to reduce the time for the opening of the cause of beatification of our beloved Pope…Thank you, Your Holiness!"
Archbishop Dziwisz closed his brief address by extending a heartfelt invitation to the Pope to visit Poland.
The Church there, he said, is "anxious to welcome you. We all await your visit to our country and to the Church that loves you and supports you with constant prayer. You may be certain of these sentiments.”
“As you know,” he said, “the beloved John Paul II never sought to bind people to his own person, but to Peter's Successor. Our people unhesitatingly understood this concept; they do not cease to love the late Pope, but they equally love the one who succeeded him.”
Lastly, the Archbishop told the Pope that “it is above all young people who ask us to tell Your Holiness that they want to meet you during your visit to Poland. I would be honored if this meeting were to take place in Krakow."