On Saturday Benedict XVI addressed a group of 100 recently-appointed bishops who are participating in a training seminar on the episcopate. “Allow yourselves to be guided by St. Paul who did not avoid difficulties and sufferings because he was well aware that they are part of the cross which, as Christians, we must carry every day,” he adivsed them.
Speaking at Castel Gandolfo, the Holy Father began his address by highlighting that the seminar, which is being promoted by the Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples, is being held during the year honoring St. Paul.
"I am sure that the spirit of this 'teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth' will not fail to illuminate and enrich your pastoral and episcopal ministry," he said, recalling how "the expression 'teacher of the Gentiles' opens to the future, projecting the spirit of the Apostle towards all peoples and all generations."
By reflecting on St. Paul, the Holy Father continued, the new bishops should learn “to look sympathetically upon the people to whom we are sent" and "to seek in Christ the light and grace to announce the Good News today."
The Pontiff also touched on the topic of the “dictatorship of relativism.”
He informed the bishops that many societies are being hit by “the increasingly-violent wind of religious indifference, secularization and the relativization of values,” creating “an environment in which the weapon of preaching may appear - as happened to Paul in Athens - to lack the necessary strength.”
In many regions of the world, he added, “Catholics are a minority, sometimes a tiny minority. This compels you to deal with other much stronger religions that are not always welcoming towards you. Finally, there is no lack of situations in which, as pastors, you must defend your faithful in the face of persecution and violent attacks."
The Holy Father encouraged the newly ordained bishops not to be “discouraged by these inconveniences, which are sometimes very harsh, but allow yourselves to be guided and inspired by St. Paul, who did not avoid difficulties and sufferings because he was well aware that they are part of the cross which, as Christians, we must carry every day.”
“Suffering unites us to Christ and to our brothers and sisters, and expresses the fullness of love, the source and supreme trial of which is Christ's own Cross,” the Pope explained. “Paul's deepest motivations were the fact that he was loved by Jesus Christ and his desire to transmit this love to others."
"You are at the beginning of your episcopal ministry. Do not hesitate to draw from this powerful teacher of evangelization, learning from him how to love Christ, how to sacrifice yourselves in the service of others, how to identify yourselves with the people among whom you are called to preach the Gospel, how to proclaim and bear witness to the presence of the Risen One."
The Pope concluded, "You who, as successors of the Apostles, continue Paul's mission in bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles, draw inspiration from him in seeing your vocation as closely dependent on the light of the Spirit of Christ."