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Courage and optimism, a response to secularization

· Benedict XVI to the French Bishops' Conference on their visit “ad limina Apostolorum” ·

The Church in  France, described by John Paul II at the Mass he celebrated at Le Bourget on 30 June 1980 as an “educator of peoples”, has a long missionary and spiritual tradition to respect. And it was by reiterating his reference to the solidity of its Christian roots that Benedict XVI renewed his invitation to respond with optimism and courage to the challenges posed by an increasingly secularized society. Today it is more necessary than ever, the Pope added, to propose the everlasting newness of the Gospel with boldness and creativity. He then examined, together with the French Prelates – the first group of bishops from across the Alps to make the canonical visit – several lines for action. Benedict XVI's first recommendation concerned priests, and especially, those who have been recently ordained. They need constant support, the Pope said, so that they can express the full value of their spiritual and intellectual life for the benefit of the sanctification of the People of God. Parish groups, required to refresh the value of the Sunday celebration, must likewise be followed. The pastoral care of the parish, the Pope specified, is not a pastoral activity that can be limited to organizational matters, however important these may be, because in this case there is a risk of the “bureaucratization of pastoral work” and one loses sight of the purpose: to bring the faithful to the encounter with God. In this activity the Pope affirmed, the work of lay people is fundamental. They must be guided so that, with respect for their respective competences, they may be transformed into models of secular holiness at the service of the common good. Benedict XVI then had a thought for the family. Marriage and the family, he said, “are institutions which must be promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature”. Lastly,  “young people are in need of an appropriate catechesis” he said, that will “help them to find their place in the community of believers”. And the Pope entrusted all these hopes to the Blesseed Virgin and to the Co-Patronesses of France, Joan of Arc and Thérèse of Lisieux.

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