Father Groeschel Urges a "National Program of Penance"

As Part of Response to Church's Problems

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STEUBENVILLE, Ohio, JULY 3, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Father Benedict Groeschel offers a blueprint based on prayer in order to deal with current Church problems.



"We need a time of penance, we need a national program of penance," the Franciscan Friar of the Renewal told a recent conference for priests, deacons and seminarians, held at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. Priests and deacons from 25 states and Canada attended.

"Reform of the Church must begin with worship and preaching and prayer," the Franciscan said. "We will be asked what we have done in our time to seek the reform of the Body of Christ."

The "May Your Hope Overflow" conference, held June 9-13, included among it speakers Bishop Stanislaw Rylko, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

Father Groeschel, author of "From Scandal to Hope," encouraged the conferees to keep their vocations Christ-centered.

"One has come to us who all people of the world were waiting for. He is our absolute hope," said the founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in New York. "If you don't preach him, no one in the world has any real hope."

"The reward is that everyone will know that Jesus is our hope -- the man in prison, the man dying of AIDS, the prostitute, the mothers, the fathers, old people in nursing homes, the young -- everyone you preach to," he said. "If we want to be taken seriously as the one, true Church, we'd better proclaim it every day."

Father Groeschel defined Christianity as "a religion of mystery" and cautioned against purely rationalist theories that overanalyze and dissect the Catholic faith.

"When you take the mystery out of religion it becomes dull," he explained. "Anti-supernatural trends are atheist. And they are universally dull."

Bishop Rylko also had a message of hope, encouraging the men to see the potential among the lay members of their parishes.

The Vatican prelate noted that there are "many charisms hidden in the life of many Catholic lay people of today -- men and women, young and adults, elderly people, married and single. These are the true treasures in the Church that are worthy of being valued because too often they are hidden."

Bishop Rylko cautioned the participants not to take heed of any "prophets of doom" when considering the Church's future.

"The Christian springtime talked about by John Paul II is not an unreal utopia," he said, "but a reality becoming ever more alive around us and that asks each one of us to play our part."