Evangelization Requires a Love of Christ, Says Pope

Addresses New Bishops Who Work in Mission Lands

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VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 25, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Love of Christ alone is what impels one to evangelize, without fear of persecution or death, Benedict XVI told scores of new bishops.



Ninety-eight new prelates -- ordained over the past two years for mission countries in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Oceania -- heard the Pope's words on Saturday.

The papal audience, held in the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, was the climax of a study seminar organized for such prelates since 1994 by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

The Holy Father told the prelates: "Called to be pastors among people who, to a large extent, still do not know Jesus Christ," as the "first responsible for proclaiming the Gospel you must therefore make considerable efforts so that all will be given the possibility to receive it."

Benedict XVI stressed that "only impelled by love of Christ is it possible to fulfill this apostolic effort, which calls for the bold ardor of those who, for the sake of the Lord, do not fear persecution or death."

He then recalled the "numerous priests, men and women religious and lay people who in past centuries and in our time have sealed their fidelity to Christ and to the Church in mission lands with their blood."

The last sacrifice added recently "to the number of these heroic witnesses of the Gospel" is that of "Sister Leonella Sgorbati, a Consolata missionary, barbarously killed in Mogadishu," Somalia, the Pope said. "The blood of martyrs is the seed of new Christians."

Witnesses

Addressing the new prelates who are being entrusted with "the mandate to guard and transmit faith in Christ, deposited in the living tradition of the Church and for which many have given their lives," the Pontiff pointed out the keys to carry out such a task.

"It is essential that in the first place you be an 'example in all good works, purity of doctrine, dignity, sound word, perfect,'" he said, quoting St. Paul. "Contemporary man listens with greater willingness to witnesses than to teachers, or, if he listens to teachers, he does so because they are witnesses."

Hence Benedict XVI emphasized "that you give primary importance in your episcopal ministry to prayer and incessant tension toward holiness."

In addition, the Pope exhorted the bishops to maintain "the unity of faith in the diversity of its cultural expressions," which calls for permanent unity with the faithful entrusted to them.

"As watchmen of the People of God, avoid divisions with firmness and courage, especially when they are due to ethnic or sociocultural motives," he cautioned.

Finally, the Holy Father highlighted the importance "of a serious formation of seminarians and of a continuing updating of priests and catechists."

Because the seminary "is the heart of the diocese," the bishop must be concerned to provide it with "a sufficient number of formators, carefully chosen and prepared so that they are above all examples and models for the seminarians," Benedict XVI insisted. "From the preparation of future priests and all other pastoral agents, in particular catechists, depend the future of your communities and of the universal Church."