With the challenges that our society is currently facing, it is necessary that Christians be united, said the Pope as he addressed prelates from the Conference of Catholic Bishops of the Russian Federation, who recently completed their "ad limina" visit.
During his meeting with the bishops, the Holy Father praised their commitment to re-launching participation in the liturgy and the Sacraments, catechesis, the formation of priests, and to the preparation of a mature and responsible laity capable of becoming an evangelical ferment in families and in civil society."
He then encouraged the prelates not to lose heart in the face of difficulties or when their pastoral efforts to do not appear to be rewarding. "Rather," he continued, "nourish - in yourselves and in your collaborators - an authentic spirit of faith, with the evangelical awareness that Jesus Christ will not fail to make your ministry fruitful with the grace of His Spirit."
Pope Benedict also raised the issue of promoting vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and asked the Russian bishops to lend more support to priestly and religious formation. "Look to the formation of consecrated people and the spiritual development of the lay faithful, that they may come to consider their lives as a response to a universal call to sanctity, which must find expression in coherent evangelical witness in all the circumstances of daily life."
The need for a “renewed commitment to dialogue” between the Catholic and Orthodox,” was also touched on by the Pope, who noted that "despite the progress that has been made," this relationship "still encounters difficulties." With this in mind, the Holy Father reiterated his best wishes to the newly-elected patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Metropolitan Kirill, "for the delicate ecclesial task with which he has been entrusted."
This dialogue is necessary to unite Christians who "face the great cultural and ethical challenges of the present moment, which concern the dignity and the inalienable rights of the person, the defense of life at all stages, the protection of the family, and other pressing economic and social questions," the Holy Father continued.
Ending his address, Pope Benedict expressed his "profound gratitude" to the prelates for their faithfulness and ministry, and to the priests, religious and lay people who “collaborate with you in the service of Christ and His Gospel."