Addressing a group of American bishops from Indianapolis, Chicago and Milwaukee, Pope John Paul II spoke about the urgency of confronting the spirit of agnosticism and relativism with the Gospel.
“Every Christian, in carrying out (the) prophetic mission, has taken on a personal responsibility for the divine truth revealed in the Incarnate Word,” said the Pope. “This ‘responsibility for the truth’ demands of the Church a forthright and credible witness to the deposit of faith.”
The Holy Father affirmed that “an effective proclamation of the Gospel in contemporary western society will need to confront directly the widespread spirit of agnosticism and relativism which has cast doubt on reason’s ability to know the truth which alone satisfies the human heart’s restless quest for meaning.”
He added: “The presentation of an authentically biblical understanding of the act of faith, one which emphasizes both its cognitive and fiducial dimensions, will help to overcome purely subjective approaches and facilitate a deeper appreciation of the Church’s role in authoritatively proposing ‘the faith which is to be believed and put into practice.’”
Reaffirming a consistent theme throughout his teaching the pope added: “An essential element of the Church’s dialogue with contemporary society must also be a correct presentation, in catechesis and preaching, of the relationship between faith and reason.”
“The word of God must not be chained,” he continued; “instead it must resound before the world in all its liberating truth as a word of grace and salvation.” On this subject, he underlined the need for “a profound renewal of the missionary and prophetic sense of the whole People of God,” and for the Church “to speak courageously and with a united voice in addressing the great moral and spiritual issues confronting the men and women of our time.”
“The Church in the United States,” said the pope, “is challenged to an evangelization of culture, … (and) called to respond to the profound religious needs and aspirations of a society increasingly in danger of forgetting its spiritual roots and yielding to a purely materialistic and soulless vision of the world.”
The Holy Father thanked the American prelates for their efforts in contributing to a “respectful discussion of important issues affecting the life of your nation. In this way the light of the Gospel has been brought to bear on controversial social questions such as respect for human life, problems of justice and peace, immigration, the defense of family values and the sanctity of marriage. This prophetic witness … is a significant service to the common good of a democracy like your own.”