.- Bishops from Costa Rica visited with the Pope this morning at the Vatican and received a message of encouragement and challenge from Benedict XVI. The Pontiff called on the prelates to “constantly revitalize their ancient and deep Christian roots” and to guard against the risk letting Costa Ricans’ faith become “lethargic and superficial.”
In his first meeting with the Costa Rican bishops, Pope Benedict XVI spoke with them about the way that the South American country is experiencing profound and rapid change. This situation, he said, requires the seeking out of “new ways to announce Christ” and the emphasis of the “missionary character of all pastoral activity."
Amidst this constant change, "The people of Costa Rica must constantly revitalize their ancient and deep Christian roots, their vigorous popular religiosity, and the Marian piety they hold so dear, that these things may bring the fruits of a life worthy of the disciples of Jesus," he told the prelates.
The Pope also touched on some strengths of the Costa Rican Church. He pointed to the numerous priests "who are the bishop's main collaborators in his pastoral ministry," adding that they need "clear guidelines and criteria, constant formation, and support in the exercise of their ministry."
Another area of concern for the Church in South America is the progress being made by different sects and Protestant churches in converting Catholics. If people have a lethargic and superficial faith they risk falling being pulled in by “the multiple promises of easy and immediate well being...or the spread of ideologies which, while claiming to exalt human beings, actually debase them.” In a situation such as this, it becomes ever more important to announce that 'man's great, true hope which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God - God who has loved us and who continues to love us,'" the Pontiff said.
"Male and female religious, and consecrated persons, have the duty of bearing a particularly active witness to this hope" said the Holy Father. "By their vocation, they are called to be a sign of the 'the mystery of the Kingdom of God already at work in history.'"
The Holy Father indicated that the laity must "also must participate in this mission, following their specific vocation". He also invited the bishops to express their gratitude to the laity "and to give them encouragement and constant attention" because "they are called to carry Christian values into the various areas of society: the world of work, of civil society and of politics."
"You are right to be concerned at the increasing deterioration of the institution of the family, which has such grave repercussions on the fabric of society and on ecclesial life," Pope Benedict told the bishops. Consequently, "it is necessary to promote the good of the family and to defend its rights...showing it your pastoral attention, and directly protecting and helping it in its difficulties."
The Pope concluded by encouraging the prelates not to forget "those groups of couples and families who help one another to achieve their exalted and indispensable vocation," nor to overlook services that help prevent the breakdown of the family.