Pontiff: Church's Charity Shows Face of God

Shares Honduran Bishops' Concern Over Poverty

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 26, 2008 (Zenit.org).- With its commitment to combat poverty and violence, and with its work in education, the Church shows the merciful face of God, Benedict XVI says.

The Pope affirmed this today when he received in audience the Honduran bishops, in Rome for their five-yearly visit. He reminded them that "like the proclamation of the word and the celebration of the sacraments, the service of charity is an essential part of the mission of the Church."

The Holy Father highlighted the bishops' role in this service of charity, though he added: "I know well how the poverty, which affects so many of your fellow-countrymen, afflicts you."

Some 70% of Honduras' 7 million inhabitants are below the poverty line.

The Pontiff assured the bishops that he shares their concern at the "increase in violence, emigration, destruction of the environment, corruption, and lack of education, among other grave problems."

"As ministers of the Good Shepherd, you have displayed, in word and deed, an intense endeavor to assist the needy," the Pope affirmed. He encouraged them "to continue to show in your ministry the merciful face of God, fostering in all your diocesan communities and parishes an extensive and detailed service of charity, which will reach in a special way the sick, the elderly and the imprisoned."

In his greeting to the Pope, Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa and president of the Honduras episcopal conference, expressed his concern over the "inhuman poverty" in his country, now aggravated by the rise in the cost of petrol and food.

This situation leads to the exodus of thousands of citizens -- seeking better opportunities -- which contributes to the break-up of families, he lamented.

At the same time, the country is suffering from violence and crime, though the Church has launched a nationwide campaign in favor of life.