A “speech” allegedly delivered by Pope Benedict XVI to the Swiss bishops was released and few hours later recalled by the Vatican Press Office on Tuesday.
The “Sala Stampa” released a speech allegedly given by Pope Benedict in the context of the Ad Limina visit of the Catholic bishops of Switzerland (scheduled from November 7-9).
According to the Swiss press, the alleged “speech” released by the press office, and even summarized by the Vatican Information Service (VIS), was one prepared by the late Pope John Paul II, but never delivered, since the Ad Limina visit of the Swiss bishops was suspended in February 2005, when the Pope’s health became more precarious.
The speech was posted for few hours on the Vatican web page and was also released in Switzerland by the press office of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference. Both recalled the text without further comment.
The Vatican Information Service plans to release portions of Pope Benedict’s actual speech, which was reportedly improvised, on Wednesday morning.
The un-spoken speech, which was originally reported here at CNA said in part that, "The advance of secularization and of relativism means not only that the Sacraments, especially participation in Sunday Mass, are reduced in frequency, but also that the moral values proposed by the Church are put in doubt."
The orgininal speech also intended to consider "certain aspects of the current situation of the Church in Switzerland, identifying those elements worthy of being intensified and promoted, and those in need of correction and purification."
After highlighting the fact that many people live "as if God does not exist," the speech calls upon the prelates "to ensure that the Word of God and the Christian message are understood," and insists that they should adopt unanimous positions on theological and moral questions.
"The fundamental duty of the bishop, pastor, and master of faith," it says, "is to invite the faithful to a full acceptance of Church teaching."
Turning to the liturgy, Pope John Paul II's proposed speech affirmed that "it is a right and duty of everyone to ensure (the Mass) be celebrated in accordance with the rules laid down by the Church." As for Sunday Mass, the speech stresses the need, "to avoid its being substituted, if there are no important reasons to do so, by a celebration of the Word," and "to ensure the homily remains an important moment of doctrinal and spiritual formation ... reserved to the priest or the deacon."
The text also addressed what the Swiss bishops called a “crisis being suffered by the Sacrament of Penance," in their five-yearly reports. There is a need, the speech says, "for dioceses to re-launch pastoral activity aimed at encouraging the faithful to individual confession... Call upon priests to be assiduous confessors, generously offering the faithful appropriate times for individual confession; encourage the priests to avail themselves frequently of this Sacrament."
Moreover, it continues, "priests must rigorously observe Church norms concerning collective absolution ... which can only take place under truly exceptional circumstances."
"Care must be taken to ensure,... in parishes and pastoral centers, that the priest remains the pastor and that lay people help the priest, collaborating with him in the various sectors of pastoral life. The importance of the laity's role must not bring us to underestimate the ministry of priests, so indispensable for the life of the Church," the communique said, calling for, "an intensification in the formation of lay people to increase their faith and doctrinal knowledge, and grant them spiritual energies."
The talk also addresses "a constant concern" for the Swiss Church - vocations. "For the future of the Church in Switzerland, it is important to oversee the organization and orientation of seminaries and of the various faculties and schools of theology ... with a view to discernment and to the profound human, spiritual, cultural and pastoral formation of candidates to the priesthood.”
“Be equally attentive," the speech said, "to the initial and permanent formation of future priests, deacons and pastoral lay workers. A sure and faithful teaching of the tradition and Magisterium of the Church will ensure that everyone discovers the richness of Catholic faith."
Finally, the text concluded, "ecumenism is a sector in which the Catholic Church is irrevocably committed. The religious history of your country and your later experiences give you a special responsibility and mission in this field. Encourage your communities to commit themselves to an ecumenical journey based on the principles expressed in the Conciliar Decree 'Unitatis redintegratio' and in the 'Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism'."