On Friday the Holy Father received bishops from the Church in Thailand and addressed them concerning the condition of the Catholic Church in their care. Besides speaking about the need to respond to the challenges of globalization, the Pope urged the bishops to loudly proclaim the Gospel, even as the culture coarsens.
Pope Benedict began his talk with the prelates by speaking about the good relationship the Church has with Buddhists. "The coexistence of different religious communities,” he said, “today unfolds against the backdrop of globalization.”
Globalization presents the Church with both challenges and positive developments, the Pope noted. On the positive side, “there is the growing multitude of economic and cultural bonds which usually enhance a sense of global solidarity and shared responsibility for the well-being of humanity,” but “on the other there are disturbing signs of a fragmentation and a certain individualism, ... pushing the transcendent and the sense of the sacred to the margins and eclipsing the very source of harmony and unity within the universe.”
These negative outcomes of globalization should be fought by the Catholic Church in cooperation with the Buddhists by promoting “mutual understanding concerning the transmission of traditions to succeeding generations, the articulation of ethical values discernible to reason, reverence for the transcendent, prayer and contemplation,” the Pope said.
"The outpouring of the Spirit is both a gift and a task, the presentation of Christ and His love to the world," the Holy Father told the bishops. He praised the fact that "in Thailand, that gift is encountered particularly through the Church's medical clinics and social works as well as through her schools."
However, Benedict XVI stressed that the Thai Church must have schools that impart the faith, and as part of that, he appealed to the bishops to tell “the many men and women religious who diligently serve in Catholic institutions of learning in your dioceses” that their role “should not primarily be a role of administration but of mission.”
“It is of the utmost importance, therefore, that religious remain close to the students and their families, most especially through their classroom teaching of the catechism for Catholics and others interested, and through moral formation and care for the spiritual needs of all in the school community." He also called on religious congregations to ensure that schools "become increasingly accessible to the poor who so often long for the faithful embrace of Christ."
Another challenge for the small Catholic Church in Thailand is to ensure that the task of spreading the Word of God is not left to catechists alone. "It is the ministry of your priests," the Pope told the prelates, “to 'announce the divine word to all' and to 'labor in preaching and teaching.'"
The Holy Father finished by thanking the Thai Church for its efforts “to uphold the dignity of every human life, especially the most vulnerable. Of particular concern to you is the scourge of the trafficking of women and children, and prostitution.”
“Undoubtedly,” he said, “poverty is a factor underlying these phenomena, and in this regard I know much is being achieved through the Church's development programs.”
"But there is a further aspect which must be acknowledged and collectively addressed if this abhorrent human exploitation is to be effectively confronted. I am speaking," the Holy Father concluded, "of the trivialization of sexuality in the media and entertainment industries which fuels a decline in moral values and leads to the degradation of women, the weakening of fidelity in marriage and even the abuse of children."