.- In a meeting with the bishops of Guatemala today, Pope Benedict encouraged them in their efforts to reach their people with the Gospel in the midst of trying conditions.
"Your pastors' hearts", the Pope told the bishops, "are filled with concern for the increase in violence and poverty that affects large numbers of the population and causes extensive emigration to other countries, with grave repercussions on personal and family life. This situation is an invitation for you to renew your efforts to show everyone the merciful face of the Lord, of whom the Church is called to be the image, accompanying and serving with generosity and dedication, especially those who suffer and are most in need".
The Holy Father also emphasized that the forms of popular devotion practiced by the Guatemalan people “must mature into solid Christian communities".
As various Protestant groups make inroads in the Central American country, the Pope called on the bishops to promote "firmness in the faith and participation in the Sacraments”. When the faithful are enriched and strengthened by the faith then they are protected from “the risk posed by sects or by supposedly charismatic groups, which create disorientation and can even endanger ecclesial communion," the Pontiff said.
After noting that the family is strongly supported by Guatemalan culture, Benedict XVI also pointed to the "serious pastoral and human challenges" which the institution of the family is facing. With the family under attack, "the Church remains dedicated ... to the solid formation of people who are preparing for marriage, constantly infusing faith and hope into homes and praying that, with the necessary help, they may fulfill their responsibilities," he said.
Benedict XVI also reminded bishops that their priests "need constant encouragement to continue along the path of true priestly sanctity...as well as the means necessary to increase their human and theological formation."
Finally, the Holy Father turned his attention to the impact on evangelization of the Second American Missionary Congress, held in Guatemala in 2003, and of the Fifth General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean, celebrated in Brazil in 2007.
He invited the bishops "to continue with renewed energy the Church's evangelizing mission in the context of modern cultural movements and globalization, giving fresh vigor to preaching and catechesis, and proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as the foundation and raison d'etre for all believers".
"The evangelization of cultures", he concluded, "is a priority task to ensure that the Word of God remains accessible to everyone and, absorbed into the mind and heart, becomes the light that illuminates those cultures and the water that purifies them with the message of the Gospel which brings salvation for all humankind".