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5/1/2009 1:02 PM
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'Prayer opens the heart
to those most in need'

The Holy Father addressed Thursday a third group of prelates from the Argentine Episcopal Conference, who have just completed their "ad limina" visit.

[He previously met with them in smaller groups, as he did with the first two big groups whom he saw before the trip to Africa and then before the Holy Week observance.]

Here is a translation of the Holy Father's address to them, delivered in Spanish:

Dear brothers in the Episcopate!

1. It is with great joy that I meet again with this group of Pastors from the Church in Argentina, which concludes your ad limina visit.

I greet you all with affection and I wish that this fraternal meeting with the Successor of Peter may help you feel the pulse of the Universal Church and to consolidate the ties of faith, communion and discipline that unite your local churches to the Apostolic See.

At the same time, I thank the Lord for this new occasion to confirm my brothers in the faith (cfr Lk 22,32), and to share your joys and concerns, in your successes and difficulties.

With all my heart, I am grateful for the kind words addressed to me, in the name of you all, by Mons. Luis Héctor Villalba, Archbishop of Tucuman and vice-president of the Argentine bishops' conference, who expressed your sentiments of affection and adherence, along with those of your priests, religious, and the lay faithful of your communities.

2. Dear brothers, the Lord Jesus has entrusted to us a ministry of the highest value and honor: to bring his message of peace and reconciliation to all peoples; to care, with paternal love, for the holy People of God and to lead them along the path of salvation.

This is a task that is beyond our personal merits and our lowly human capacity, but to which we dedicate ourselves with simplicity and hope, sustained by the words of Christ, "It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain" (Jn 15,16).

Jesus, the Master. looking at you with the love of a brother and friend, has called you to enter into his intimacy, and consecrating you with the sacred oil of priestly unction, he has placed in your hands the redeeming power of his blood so that, with the certainty of acting always in persona Christi capitis [in the person of Christ the Head], you may be in the midst of the people that has been entrusted to you by "a living sign of the Lord Jesus, Pastor and Spouse, Master and Pontifex of the Church" (John Paul II, Pastores gregis, 7).

In the exercise of his episcopal ministry, the Bishop should always behave among his faithful as someone who serves (cf Lumen gentium,27), constantly inspired by the example of He who did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as ransom for the many (cf Mk 10,45).

Truly, to be a bishop is a title of honor when one lives in this spirit of service to others in humble and disinterested participation in the mission of Christ.

The frequent contemplation of the image of the Good Shepherd will serve you as a model and inspiration in your efforts to announce and disseminate the Gospel, it will impel you to care for the faithful with tenderness adn mercy, to defend the weak adn to spend your life in constant adn generous dedication to the People of God (cf Pastores gregis, 43).

3. As an essential part of your episcopal ministry in the Church, true amoris officium (cf St. Augustine, In Io. Ev., 123,5), I wish to exhort you to foment in your diocesan communities the exercise of charity, especially for the neediest.

Through your nearness and your words, with material help and with prayers, with a call to dialog and to the spirit of understanding which always seeks the common good of the people, and with the light that comes from the Gospel, you must give concrete and visible testimony of the love of Christ among the people, in order to continually construct the Church as the family of God, always welcoming and merciful with the poorest, so that in all dioceses, charity may reign in compliance with what Jesus ordered (cf Christus Dominus, 16).

Along with this, I also wish to insist on the importance of prayer in the face of activism or a secularized vision of Christian charitable service (cf Deus caritas est, 37), That assiduous contact with Christ in prayer transforms the heart of believers, opening it up to the needs of others, without being inspired, however, "by ideologies aimed at improving the world, but should rather be guided by the faith which works through love" (ibid., 33).

4. I wish to commend to you especially the priests, your closest co-workers. May the embrace of peace with which you welcomed them on the day of their priestly ordination, be a living reality every day that contributes to increasingly tighten the bonds of affection, respect and confidence that unites you to them by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders.

In acknowledging the abnegation and commitment to the ministry of your priests, I also wish to invite them to an ever greater identification with the Lord, becoming true models for the flock for their virtues and good example, pasturing the flock of God with love (cf 1 PS, 2-S).

5. The specific vocation of the lay faithful leads them to try and configure their social life correctly to illuminate earthly realities with the light of the Gospel. May these secular faithful, conscious of their baptismal promises, and inspired by the charity of Christ, participate actively in the mission of the Church as well as in the social, political, economic and cultural life of the nation.

In this sense, Catholics should stand out among their fellow citizens for their exemplary compliance of their civic duties, as well as for the exercise of those human and Christian virtues which contribute to improve personal, social and work relations.

Their commitment should also lead them to promote in particular those values which are essential to the common good of society, such as peace, justice, solidarity, the good of the family founded on matrimony between a man and a woman, the protection of human life from conception to natural death, and the right and obligation of parents to educate their children according to their moral and religious convictions.

I wish to conclude by asking you to bring my affectionate greeting to all the members of your diocesan churches. To the emeritus bishops, priests, seminarians, religious men and women, and all the lay faithful, tell them that the pope thanks them for their work for the Lord and the cause of the Gospel, and that I hope and trust in their fidelity to the Church.

To you, dear Bishops of Argentina, I thank you for your pastoral solicitude and I assure you of my spiritual closeness and my constant prayers. I commend you from the heart to the protection of Our Lady of Lujan and I impart to you a special Apostolic Blessing

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 9/29/2010 7:10 AM]
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