Speaking to all 350 bishops of the United States in Washington D.C. this evening, Benedict XVI challenged the Church leaders to bring the message of hope in Christ to the country by “clearing away some of the barriers” to “an encounter with the living God". Among the barriers he mentioned are the view that faith can be separated from public actions, materialism and individualism.
The discourse to the assembled Bishops of the United States by Benedict XVI focused on their duty to “sow the seeds of the Gospel”. The Pope elaborated on this by asking, “how, in the twenty-first century, a bishop can best fulfill the call to "make all things new in Christ, our hope"? How can he lead his people to "an encounter with the living God", the source of that life-transforming hope of which the Gospel speaks? Perhaps he needs to begin by clearing away some of the barriers to such an encounter.”
One of the main barriers that prevents this seed from being planted, is the influence of secularism: a worldview that divides one’s faith from their public actions. This leads to attitudes where “practicing Catholics to ignore or exploit the poor and the marginalized, to promote sexual behavior contrary to Catholic moral teaching, or to adopt positions that contradict the right to life of every human being from conception to natural death”.
The Holy Father then emphasized that, “Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted. Only when their faith permeates every aspect of their lives do Christians become truly open to the transforming power of the Gospel.”
Another way that the churchmen should strive to prevent the division of faith from life in the culture is by strengthening marriage.
The Pope told the bishops that their task is to boldly proclaim “the arguments from faith and reason in favor of the institution of marriage, understood as a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman, open to the transmission of life. This message should resonate with people today, because it is essentially an unconditional and unreserved "yes" to life, a "yes" to love, and a "yes" to the aspirations at the heart of our common humanity, as we strive to fulfill our deep yearning for intimacy with others and with the Lord.”
The Pope also tackled the problem of sexual abuse.
First, he said, the bishops must become vocal advocates for bringing the truth about sexuality to the modern culture through modern mass communication. By way of a solution, the Pontiff called on the bishops to reinvigorate their priests and faithful with their own example of prayer.
Time spent in prayer is never wasted, however urgent the duties that press upon us from every side, Pope Benedict said.
The Holy Father's full address can be viewed by clicking here.