.- Pope Benedict called on a group of newly-consecrated bishops to boldly present the Gospel to everyone, so that they encounter Christ and the faith becomes stronger around the world.
In keeping with Jesus’ command to the apostles, Pope Benedict told the bishops that he is asking them to “boldly invite the people from every walk of life to an encounter with Christ and to render more solid the faith.”
“Evangelization, in fact, is not the work of some specialists, but of the entire People of God, under the guidance of the Pastors,” he added.
His comments were made the morning of Sept. 20, at a conference organized by the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops. Each year, new bishops who were appointed in the past 12 months make a pilgrimage to Rome and attend a conference to learn about their new role as shepherds.
The pilgrimage is meant to help them to experience “communication and communion” with their brothers in the episcopate and to strengthen their ties to the Pope.
Pope Benedict focused on the New Evangelization for much of his talk. In opening his statement he referenced the upcoming Year of Faith and General Synod on the New Evangelization, as well as the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council.
These events are opportunities for the bishops to strengthen the faith of which they are “teachers and heralds,” he said.
Interestingly, Pope Benedict pointed to Vatican II as the precise beginning of the New Evangelization, which aims to reintroduce the faith to historically Christian countries and societies.
He quoted Blessed Pope John XXIII at the opening of the council, who said, “it is necessary that this certain and unchangeable doctrine, which must be faithfully respected, be both deepened and presented in a way that meets the needs of our time.”
While bishops are the shepherds and leaders in their dioceses, Pope Benedict said, all of their faithful are called to evangelize. “Each believer, in and with the ecclesial community should feel responsible for announcing and witnessing to the Gospel.”
The bishops were called upon to form their people in doctrine, spirituality and holiness so that when they evangelize, “their testimony is more credible.”
The Pope also urged the bishops to be mindful of those who do not yet have the faith, being ready to give reason for their hope to those who “are in search of faith or the ultimate meaning of life.”
He also stressed the importance of the faith being properly adapted to each culture it encounters, so that it is explained in a way that is “systematic and organic” and responds to the questions posed by “our globalized and technological world.”
In regards to their priests, Pope Benedict exhorted the bishops to act as loving fathers to them by supporting, encouraging and forgiving them. He reminded the bishops that they must also care particularly for the poor and suffering, and must be first of all servants of God.
“The Bishop, the first witness of faith accompanies the journey of believers offering the example of a life lived in trusting in God.”
“He, therefore, in order to be an authoritative teacher and herald of the faith, must live in the presence of the Lord, as a man of God,” the Pope said.