Pope John Paul II commended the bishops of England and Wales today on their pastoral initiatives and their efforts in youth ministry, the media and education, despite the prevalent secularism in their regions.
These efforts are important, said the Pope, because they all contribute to the evangelization of culture, which “is a central aspect of the new evangelization,” said the Pope. The Episcopal Conference of England and Wales was in Rome for their first “ad Limina” visit in the new millennium.
The Pope said he was “heartened” to learn about the priority the bishops are giving youth ministry. The growth of such groups is “evidence of the desire of many young people to share in the Church’s life,” he said.
“Offer [the young people] an integral Christian formation and challenge them to follow Christ,” he urged. “You will find their enthusiasm and generosity exactly what is needed to promote a spirit of renewal not just among themselves but in the entire Christian community.”
The Pope also recognized the important contribution Catholic schools make in the evangelization of culture. However, he added “We need teachers with a clear and precise understanding of the specific nature and role of Catholic education,” if an awakening in the faith is to grow.
While the Pope acknowledged that religious education is a challenging apostolate in this day and age, he encouraged religious to renew their commitment to education and not to abandon the school apostolate.
He urged the bishops to continue to encourage their priests and religious in their vocations. “Assure your priests that the Christian faithful – indeed society at large – depend upon and are greatly appreciative of them,” he said. He also commended the bishops in their endeavor to promote a “culture of vocations.”
Another important area in the evangelization of culture is the media.
“Your efforts to assist those working in this field to exercise their responsibility are commendable,” he told the bishops, who last week issued a statement calling on the BBC to remedy its biased coverage of the Catholic Church.
The Pope recognized the important role the media plays as “a primary factor in the shaping of today’s culture.” The bishops, then, are to work together with the media, he said.
“Invite them to join you in breaking down barriers of mistrust and in striving to bring peoples together in understanding and respect,” he urged.
Pope John Paul encouraged the bishops to continue issuing pastoral letters and statements on issues of social concern, highlighting the need to uphold the uniqueness of marriage as a lifelong union between a man and a woman.
“Social disintegration, threats to family life, and the ugly spectres of racial intolerance and war leave many men and women, and especially the young, feeling disoriented and at times even without hope,” he said.
In the face of these difficulties, bishops must “embrace their fundamental mission to be authentic and authoritative heralds of the Word.
“It is by fidelity to the ordinary Magisterium of the Church, by strict adherence to the discipline of the universal Church, and by positive statements which clearly instruct the faithful, that a Bishop preserves God’s people from deviations and defections and guarantees them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error,” he said.