.- This morning, the Holy Father received prelates from the episcopal conferences of the Baltic States - Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia - who have just completed their "ad limina" visit. Pope Benedict encouraged the bishops and reminded them that the Gospel will aid them in healing the wounds of communism and confronting secularism.
"While the wounds communism inflicted on your people are not yet completely healed,” Pope Benedict said, “secularism is exercising a growing influence, exalting the illusion of consumerism and rendering human beings the measure of themselves. All this makes your pastoral work even more difficult. But, without losing faith, continue tirelessly in announcing the Gospel of Christ, the word of salvation for mankind of all times and cultures."
The Gospel, the Holy Father continued, "does not hinder man's freedom and true social progress; on the contrary, it helps human beings to full self-realization and renovates society through the sweet and demanding law of love."
The Pope also referred to the subject of the family, pointing our how "alongside exemplary family groups there are, unfortunately, those marked by the fragility of conjugal ties, by the scourge of abortion and the demographic crisis, by the scant care with which they transmit authentic values to children, by job insecurity, by social mobility weakening ties between the generations and by a growing sense of disorientation among young people.”
"Modernity," he added, "when not rooted in real values is destined to be dominated by the tyranny of instability and confusion. For this reason, each ecclesial community ... is called to be a point of reference and to maintain a dialogue with the surrounding society."
The Holy Father encouraged the bishops never to tire "of being courageous defenders of life and the family," and to continue in "the human and religious formation of engaged couples and of young families. This is a most worthy undertaking which, I trust, is also appreciated and supported by the institutions of civil society."
After calling on the prelates to live in communion with one another and with Peter's Successor, the Pope encouraged them to give spiritual "and if necessary material" support to priests. He also urged them to turn their attention to priests' "constant formation, thanks also to courses of aggiornamento that help them to acquire a more profound understanding of the teachings of Vatican Council II and to evaluate the wealth contained in liturgical texts and in Church documents, translated into your respective languages."
In order to face the difficulties young people encounter in answering the call of Christ - the consequence, said Benedict XVI, of a "secularized mentality" - careful "youth and vocational pastoral care must be promoted. ... As for seminaries, ensure the presence of formators gifted with real humanity and profound piety, open to dialogue and collaboration; professors faithful to the teaching of the Magisterium and credible witnesses of the Gospel."