20 Years After Communism, Pope Urges Preaching

Says Church's Mission Still the Same

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 11, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI says bishops of former Communist countries need to be ardent in their proclamation of the Gospel, and thus overcome the difficulties inherited in those nations.



This was the invitation sent in the Pope's name by his secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, to a meeting of bishops from former Communist nations. The meeting, held in Croatia, ended today. It is the third time bishops of these nations have gathered in a meeting of this type.

The date was chosen to coincide with the anniversary of the beatification of Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac by Pope John Paul II, and much of the work of the meeting centered on the spiritual legacy of this and other communist martyrs.

"From the nature of the Church, it derives its mission, which is always the same, as St. Paul reminds us: 'Proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching,'" Benedict XVI explained.

"To announce the good news of Jesus Christ 20 years ago in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe was truly difficult and even dangerous, particularly for the pastors of the Church," he recalled.

The papal message mentioned Cardinal Stepinac, saying he was "among those who suffered persecution to remain faithful to Christ and the Church" and the "most illustrious personality" of the Church in Croatia, as John Paul II defined him.

"The martyrdom and the testimony of Blessed Cardinal Stepinac motivate and encourage us, assuring us that the Church continues its pilgrimage amidst the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God, announcing the passion and death of the Lord until he comes," the German Pontiff continued.

According to the papal message, "after the fall of Communism, the Church faces new challenges, new problems, but the mandate continues being the same: 'Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature."'

"The mutual cooperation between the pastors and the episcopal conferences is of great importance for the fulfillment of this mission," he added, observing that the meeting in Croatia is a manifestation of the "vitality of the Church, [and gives] new hope for the efficaciousness of its mission in Europe and the world."