From the Vatican Information Service:
VATICAN CITY, 30 APR 2009 (VIS) - This morning the Holy Father addressed a third group of prelates from the Argentinean Episcopal Conference, who have just completed their "ad limina" visit.
In his remarks to them the Holy Father recalled how the Lord had entrusted bishops "with a ministry of great importance and dignity: that of bringing His message of peace and reconciliation to all people, of caring for the holy People of God with paternal love and leading them along the path of salvation".
"In exercising his episcopal ministry", he said, "a bishop must always act as a servant among his faithful, drawing constant inspiration from the One Who came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life to save many. Truly, to be bishop is an honour when lived with that spirit of service to others and as a humble and disinterested participation in the mission of Christ".
"Frequent contemplation of the image of the Good Shepherd", Benedict XVI told the prelates, "will serve as a model and a stimulus for your efforts to announce and spread the Gospel, it will encourage you to care for the faithful with tenderness and mercy, to defend the weak and to spend your lives in constant and generous dedication to the People of God".
After then encouraging them to stimulate "the practice of charity, especially among the most needy" in their dioceses, the Pope highlighted the importance of concentrating on "prayer as opposed to activism or a secularised vision of the charitable efforts of Christians. This assiduous contact with Christ through prayer will transform believers' hearts, opening them to the needs of others and so ensuring they are not 'inspired by ideologies aimed at improving the world, but guided by the faith which works through love'".
On the subject of priests, the Holy Father called on the bishops to tighten "their bonds of affection, respect and trust" with them. "I recognise your priests' self-sacrifice and commitment to the ministry", he said, "and I too wish to invite them to identify themselves increasingly with the Lord, becoming true models for their people by their virtues and good example, and feeding the flock of God".
Benedict XVI then turned his attention to the vocation of lay people who, "conscious of their baptismal promises and animated by Christ's charity, participate actively in the mission of the Church, as well as in the social, political, economic and cultural life of their country". In this context he made it clear that "Catholics should stand out among their fellow citizens by their exemplary accomplishment of their civic duties, and by the exercise of those human and Christian virtues which help to improve personal, social and working relationships".
"Their commitment", he concluded, "will also lead them to promote values that are essential to the common good of society, such as peace, justice, solidarity, the good of the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman, the defence of life from conception until natural death, and the right and obligation of parents to educate children according to their own moral and religious convictions"
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