Speaking late in afternoon on Saturday to priests, deacons, seminarians, men and women religious and representatives of ecclesial movements gathered at the Cathedral of St. Vito in Prague, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged the Church in the Czech Republic to respond to the waves of relativism and agnosticism that have grown in the European nation despite the fall of Communism 20 years ago.
After recalling the long list of Czech saints and martyrs in the thousand-year-old cathedral, the Pope said that “the heroism of these witnesses to the faith reminds us that only through personal intimacy and a profound bond with Christ is it possible to draw the spiritual vitality needed to live the Christian vocation to the full.”
“Only the love of Christ," he added, "can make the apostolate effective, especially in moments of difficulty and trial. Love for Christ and for one’s fellow men and women must be the hallmark of every Christian and every community.”
The Holy Father recalled that twenty years ago, “after the long winter of Communist dictatorship, your Christian communities began once more to express themselves freely, when, through the events triggered by the student demonstration of 17 November 1989, your people regained their freedom.”
“Yet you are well aware that even today it is not easy to live and bear witness to the Gospel. Society continues to suffer from the wounds caused by atheist ideology, and it is often seduced by the modern mentality of hedonistic consumerism amid a dangerous crisis of human and religious values and a growing drift towards ethical and cultural relativism,” he said.
Pope Benedict recalled then “the urgent need for renewed effort throughout the Church so as to strengthen spiritual and moral values in present-day society.”
“Your pastoral activity in the field of educating new generations should be undertaken with particular zeal. Catholic schools should foster respect for the human person; attention should also be given to the pastoral care of young people outside the school environment, without neglecting other groups of the faithful. Christ is for everyone!” he said.
Addressing bishops and priests, the Pontiff highlighted that “it is your task to work tirelessly for the good of those entrusted to your care. Always draw inspiration from the Gospel image of the Good Shepherd, who knows his sheep, calls them by name, leads them to safe pastures, and is prepared to give his life for them.”
To the consecrated persons, the Pope explained that “by your fidelity to this vocation, you will help the men and women of today to let themselves be captivated by God and by the Gospel of his Son.”
“And you, dear young people in seminaries or houses of formation, be sure to acquire a solid cultural, spiritual and pastoral preparation. In this Year of Priests, with which I chose to mark the 150th anniversary of the death of the Curé d’Ars, may you learn from the example of this pastor who was completely dedicated to God and to the care of souls; he was well aware that it was his ministry, nourished by prayer, that constituted his path to sanctification,” the Pope finally said.