Pope calls French bishops to re-evangelize their secularized nation
September 21, 2012
Speaking on September 21 to a group of French bishops who were making their ad limina visit, Pope Benedict XVI said that the coming Year of Faith presents an opportunity to renew the focus on evangelization in a country that has become thoroughly secularized.
France, the Pontiff reminded the visiting prelates, “has a long spiritual and missionary tradition, such that John Paul II called it the ‘educator of peoples.’” He urged the bishops to revive that tradition, calling their people to be active in spreading the Gospel.
In this work of evangelization, the Pope continued, every diocese should call for personal initiatives. He warned against “a danger of emphasizing a search for efficiency with a sort of bureaucratization of pastoral work, focusing on organizations and programs.” The work is a matter of personal witness, he insisted, not elaborate programs.
Lay Catholics must be fully engaged in evangelization, the Pope continued. He asked the bishops to recognize and support the authentic vocation of the laity, and at the same time to “safeguard the difference between the common priesthood of all the faithful and the ministerial priesthood of those ordained to serve the community: a difference that is not only of degree but of nature.” As an example of the lay vocation, the Pope pointed to St. Joan of Arc, observing that “one of the most original features of her holiness is precisely the link between mystical experience and political mission.” The Pope asked the French bishops to pay careful attention to the spiritual needs of their priests, “particularly those who have been recently ordained and those who are elderly or in need.” In light of the shortage of priests, he said, “it is necessary to pray, and to ensure others pray,” that more young men will hear and heed God’s call to ministry.