.- Pope Benedict XVI says he is praying that a renewal of female religious life in the United States will “recapture a sense of the sublime dignity and beauty of the consecrated life.”
“I wish to reaffirm my deep gratitude for the example of fidelity and self-sacrifice given by many consecrated women in your country, and to join them in praying that this moment of discernment will bear abundant spiritual fruit for the revitalization and strengthening of their communities in fidelity to Christ and the Church, as well as to their founding charisms,” the Pope said on May 18.
He made his comments to a delegation of U.S. bishops from the Eastern Catholic churches that is currently in Rome on a May 15-19 “ad limina” pilgrimage.
Last month the Vatican called for a reform of the Maryland-based Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), after concluding there was a “crisis” of belief throughout its ranks. It also appointed Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle to lead the renewal efforts.
During his May 18 address, Pope Benedict asked the bishops to promote and pray for new religious vocations, since there is an “urgent need in our own time for credible and attractive witnesses to the redemptive and transformative power of the Gospel.”
He also called for a “strengthening of the existing channels for communication and cooperation” between dioceses and the individual religious communities within their territory.
The Vatican’s decision to reform the LCWR followed a four-year audit of the group by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Among its key findings, the assessment documented serious theological and doctrinal errors in presentations at the conference’s annual assemblies in recent years.
Several speakers depicted a vision of religious life that is incompatible with the Catholic faith, the assessment said, with some attempting to justify dissent from Church teaching and showing “scant regard for the role of the Magisterium.”
Pope Benedict’s audience with the leaders of the Eastern Catholic churches marks the conclusion of several months of “ad limina” visits by U.S. bishops.
The Pope said he hoped that the forthcoming Year of Faith, which begins in October, will “awaken a desire on the part of the entire Catholic community in America to re-appropriate with joy and gratitude the priceless treasure of our faith.”
“With the progressive weakening of traditional Christian values, and the threat of a season in which our fidelity to the Gospel may cost us dearly,” he warned, “the truth of Christ needs not only to be understood, articulated and defended, but to be proposed joyfully and confidently as the key to authentic human fulfillment and to the welfare of society as a whole.”