Don't squander your faith, Pope urges young Churches

Pope Benedict XVI Credit Mazur 2 CNA World Catholic News 5 21 12 Pope Benedict XVI. | Mazur/

Pope Benedict XVI says that the most newly evangelized parts of the world now have to pass on the gift of Jesus Christ which they have recently received.

"The Church is born of the mission and grows with the mission," the Pope said Sept. 7, adding that "the faith is a gift to be welcomed into our hearts and lives, one for which we must always thank the Lord.

"But faith is donated in order to be shared; it is a talent given that it may bear fruit, a light that must not remain hidden," he stressed.

Pope Benedict was addressing a group of around 100 recently consecrated bishops from parts of the world which are deemed mission territory by the Vatican. Represented among their number were clerics from Africa, Asia, America and Oceania. The gathering at the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo was organized by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

The Pope noted that in the territories where Christianity has only recently established itself "the faith attracts high levels of participation and joy, it is vivacious and creative." At the same time, it is often "not yet well rooted" such that "enthusiasm and apostolic zeal alternate with episodes of instability and incoherence."

Nonetheless, said the Pope, these new Churches "are maturing" thanks to the "communio sanctorum" (communion of saints) that opens the way to an authentic exchange of grace "between ancient and recently founded Churches" as well as "between the Church in heaven and the pilgrim Church on earth."

He also observed that while there has been a decrease in the number of missionaries, it is being compensated for by an increase in diocesan and regular clergy so that "a new form of missionary cooperation" has emerged.

That new phenomenon involves some young Churches "sending their priests to sister Churches who lack clergy, either within the same country or to other countries on the same continent." This communion "must always animate the work of evangelization," he said.

The Pope also issued a word of caution about newer Churches absorbing their native culture by calling for "a correct inculturation of the faith" that will help to "incarnate the Gospel in the cultures of peoples, and to take from them what is good."

He counseled his brother bishops to be aware that this can be a long and difficult process that must "not in any way compromise the specific nature and integrity of the Christian faith."

The overall tone of Benedict XVI's speech, however, was one of encouragement with an emphasis throughout on the "absolute priority of the task of evangelization."

"The young Churches, then, represent a sign of hope for the future of the universal Church. It is in this context, dear brethren, that I encourage you to spare no efforts or courage in your pastoral activities," the pontiff declared.

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