.- Earlier this morning, Pope Benedict held audience with visiting Mexican bishops, in Rome for their "ad limina" visits, and reminded them that the peoples of multiple cultures and traditions who coexist in their cities must be accommodated with special pastoral care, giving particular attention to the poor and marginalized.
The prelates came from the Mexican metropolitan sees of Jalapa, Mexico, Puebla and Tlalnepantla, and from their suffragan dioceses.
The central region of Mexico, the Pope said in his address, "is the area where the ancient indigenous people settled, and where the Church's missionary activity began, later extending to the other areas."
After highlighting that "multiple cultures and traditions" coexist in the cities, he also indicated how life there is complicated "for the various social classes to whom diocesan pastoral activity must be directed without discrimination, giving priority to those who find themselves in situations of great poverty, solitude and marginalization."
The Pope stressed that "All these social groups present a continuous challenge for pastoral care, which must also be planned to accommodate those brothers and sisters who, in ever greater numbers, emigrate from the country to the city in search of a more dignified life."
He told the bishops that their pastoral ministry "must be directed to everyone, both to the faithful who participate actively in the life of the diocesan community, and to people who have distanced themselves and are searching for the meaning of their own lives." Further, he encouraged the prelates to "propose the Word of God" in "a form and a language appropriate to our time."
"In modern society, which shows such visible signs of secularism," he said, "we must not fall prey to discouragement, or to a lack of enthusiasm in our pastoral projects. Remember that the Spirit will give you the strength necessary. Trust in Him Who is 'the Lord and Giver of life'."
The Holy Father challenged the bishops to dedicate their "greatest attention and energy to priests," encouraging them to remain close to each of their pastors, maintaining relationships of "priestly friendship with them in the manner of the Good Shepherd."
"Help them", the Pope said, "to be men of assiduous prayer, both in contemplative silence ... and in the devout daily celebration of the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours. ... A priest's prayer is a requirement of his pastoral ministry."
He also told them to "Concern yourselves with the particular situation of each priest, encouraging them to proceed with joy and hope along the road of priestly sanctity, offering them the help they need and fomenting fraternity among them. May none of them lack the means necessary to live their sublime vocation and ministry. Take also particular care over the formation of seminarians and enthusiastically promote vocational pastoral care."
"Faced with a changing and complex panorama such as the present one," the Pope added, the bishops should not lose hope.
"The planning and implementation of pastoral programs must reflect ... trust in the loving presence of God in the world. This will help lay Catholics to face growing secularism and to participate responsibly in temporal affairs, illuminated by the Church's Social Doctrine."