Pope Benedict XVI addressed bishops from the Episcopal Conferences of Laos and Cambodia today as they concluded their visit to the Holy See. He called them to maintain their Catholic identity while respecting the traditions of the culture in which they live.
The Pope remarked, “You carry out your ministry at the service of the Church in often-difficult conditions and in a great variety of situations. Be sure that you have my fraternal support and the support of the Universal Church in your service to the people of God."
The pontiff also drew particular attention to one facet of ministry in Laos and Cambodia: "the announcement of the Christian faith within a particular culture." He recalled how "the recent celebration of the 450th anniversary of the presence of the Church in Cambodia was an occasion for the faithful to gain a deeper awareness of the long history of Christians in the region."
Though the strong majority of people in both Cambodia and Laos identify as Buddhist, "In truth, the Christian faith is not foreign to your peoples. 'Jesus is the Good News for the men and women of every time and place in their search for the meaning of existence and for the truth of their own humanity,' and in her announcement to all peoples the Church does not wish to impose herself but to bear witness to her respect for human beings and for the society in which she lives.”
The Pope emphasized the importance of Catholics respecting the traditions and cultures of others while expressing one’s own Catholic identity, “This identity must be expressed, primarily, through an authentic spiritual experience based on accepting the Word of God and on the Sacraments of the Church."
Another area of significance addressed by the Pope was, "the formation of the faithful, above all that of religious and of catechists" whose "role in vitalizing Christian communities is of great importance." Moreover, "with a solidly-founded Christian faith, they can establish authentic dialogue with members of other religions so as to cooperate in developing your countries and in promoting the common good."
In closing, Pope Benedict addressed how "the resolute commitment of the Christian community in favor of the least privileged is also a specific sign of the authenticity of its faith. The Church's social activities ... enjoy the appreciation of the population and of the authorities" because "they eloquently highlight God's love for all human beings with distinction."
"It is very important that the Church's charitable work maintains all of its splendor and does not become just another form of social assistance."