VATICAN CITY, 28 FEB 2008 (VIS) - At midday today the Pope received prelates from the Episcopal Conference of El Salvador, who have recently completed their "ad limina" visit.
The Pope highlighted how most Salvadoran people "are characterised by their living faith and deep religious sentiment. The Gospel, taken there by the first missionaries and fervently preached by pastors full of love for God such as Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, has become deeply rooted in that beautiful land, bringing abundant fruits of Christian life and sanctity".
Benedict XVI remarked on the fact that poverty forces many people to emigrate "in search of better living conditions, often bringing negative consequences to the stability of marriage and the family". He also recognised the prelates' efforts "to promote reconciliation and peace in the country and so overcome the painful events of the past".
Referring to violence, which "is considered as your country's most serious problem, you recognise" the Pope told the prelates "that its increase is the direct consequence of other deeper social scourges such as poverty, a lack of education, the progressive loss of those values which have always forged the Salvadorian soul, and the break-up of families. The truth is that the family is a vital asset for the Church and for society, as well as being a basic factor in constructing peace".
"Hence", he continued, "you feel the need to revitalise and reinforce adequate and effective pastoral care among families in all your dioceses, offering young people a solid spiritual and emotional formation that may help them discover the beauty of God's plan for human love, and enable them coherently to experience the authentic values of marriage and the family such as tenderness, mutual respect, self-control, total dedication and constant fidelity".
In order to tackle the poverty of so many people, said Benedict XVI, it is important "to improve infrastructures and economic conditions in order to enable everyone to enjoy a dignified life. Yet it must not be forgotten that man is not just a product of the material and social conditions in which he lives. ... 'Man needs God, otherwise he remains without hope'".
In this context, the Pope encouraged prelates "to promote ambitious and audacious efforts at evangelisation" so as to ensure that all the faithful may experience "that intimate meeting with the living Christ which as at the basis and origin of Christian existence".
The lay faithful "must be helped to discover the spiritual richness of their Baptism", said the Holy Father. In order to achieve "this most exalted vocation they need to be firmly rooted in an intense life of prayer, to listen assiduously and humbly to the Word of God, to participate frequently in the Sacraments, and to acquire a strong ecclesial sense of belonging and solid doctrinal formation, especially as concerns the Church's social doctrine where they will find clear criteria and guidance to illuminate the society in which they live".
Priests, the Pope told the bishops, "deserve your best attentions and your closeness to each one. [You must be] aware of their individual circumstances, serve them in all their spiritual and material needs and encourage them to proceed joyfully along the path of priestly sanctity". He also encouraged the bishops "to be promoters and models of communion among their own priests", and "to correct irregularities where necessary".
"A priest's love and faithfulness to his vocation", the Holy Father concluded, "will be the best and most effective form of vocational pastoral care, and an example and encouragement to your seminarians, who are the heart of your dioceses and to whom you must dedicate your best resources and efforts, because they are the hope for your Churches".
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