.- The bishops of Portugal released a message last week emphasizing the value of the Holy Father's words to the Portuguese faithful during his recent four-day stay in their country. The prelates welcomed his teachings with “joy and responsibility” saying the Pope's suggestions will be used in the formation of a pastoral plan for evangelization.
The Holy Father made an apostolic journey to Portugal May 11-14, making stops in Lisbon and Fatima, giving 16 official addresses to Portuguese religious, cultural, social, civil and military representatives and masses of people. The culminating moment of the trip was Mass in Fatima on May 13, which was celebrated with 500,000 in attendance.
On May 19, the Portuguese bishops released a message in which they thanked the faithful for their “remarkable” mobilization to see Benedict XVI. “A current of deep and simple humanity traveled distances and brought many people together, united in the common search for wisdom and seeking to calm the great fears of the future.”
The bishops said that the visit, marked by spontaneous affection and a holiness that attracted people of all ages, was a “real act of Easter” which left the Church with a wealth of words and specific guidance from the Successor of Peter.
Meeting with them in Fatima, the Holy Father asked the bishops to address "grave social need" and the demand for a "new missionary vigor on the part of Christians." He further called them to make efforts to "understand the diverse social and cultural factors, to evaluate their spiritual deficiencies and to utilize effectively your pastoral resources."
The Pontiff also urged the bishops to bring the witness of believers into close contact with those outside of the Church.
The Holy Father’s suggestions, wrote the bishops, will be incorporated into the development of the Pastoral Care Program for the future of the Church in Portugal.
Questions referring to areas within the pastoral life “deserve special attention,” noted the bishops, “and will be welcomed in the way of rethinking and restructuring the Church, in the renewed impetus to charity, in missionary development and in proposals for a credible and convincing culture.”
According to the bishops, the final product, which will be released before the end of 2011, is being developed “in response to new challenges characteristic of civilizational change that we are living.”