Pope: Find New Ways to Announce Christ

Encourages Costa Rican Bishops in Task of Evangelization

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 8, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Facing the challenge of cultural forces undermining Christian principle and values, Benedict XVI encouraged the bishops of Costa Rica to seek new ways to announce Christ.

The Pope said this today upon receiving the prelates in audience, led by the president of the episcopal conference, Bishop José Francisco Ulloa Rojas of Cartago. The bishops are in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

Bishop Rojas, who addressed a greeting to the Holy Father in the name of all the bishops, had openly discussed the problems facing Costa Rica in an interview earlier this week with L'Osservatore Romano.

He told the Vatican newspaper that secularization and materialism "are silently undermining the Christian principles and moral values" that had characterized the country.

Speaking in Spanish, the Bishop of Rome explained to the Costa Rican pastors that "you have before you the task of seeking new ways to announce Christ in situations of rapid and often profound transformation, and of emphasizing the missionary character of all pastoral activity."

He recalled that the 5th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean, which took place in Brazil last May, "highlighted how the welcoming and assimilation of the message of the Gospel is something that corresponds to each one and each generation, in the various circumstances and stages of their lives."

"The people of Costa Rica," said the Holy Father, "must constantly revitalize their [...] profound Christian roots, their vigorous religiosity, and their deep Marian devotion; may these bring the fruits of a life worthy of the disciples of Jesus," stated the Pope after personally receiving the bishops and having read their reports about the situation of the dioceses.

Nourishment

This life, Benedict XVI clarified, is "nourished by prayer and the sacraments," and is demonstrated in "a coherence of daily existence with the faith professed" and "a commitment to actively participate in the mission of opening the world so God can enter, and, in this way, truth, love and goodness."

The Pope stated "the risks of lethargic and superficial faith when it has to face such snares as the proselytism of sects and pseudo-religious groups, the multiple promises of easy and immediate well-being, but which end in disillusion and disappointment, or the spread of ideologies which, while claiming to exalt human beings, actually debase them."

"In a situation like this," he explained, "it becomes ever more important to announce that 'man's great, true hope, which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God -- God who has loved us and who continues to love us.'"

This is, the Pontiff said, not only a mission of the religious, but also of the laity.

The Holy Father added: "It is beautiful to see your effective collaboration to maintain and spread the call of faith through catechesis and cooperation with parishes and the various pastoral organizations of the dioceses.

"They are the ones called to carry Christian values into the various areas of society: the world of work, of civil society and of politics."

Of the more than four million residents of Costa Rice, 76.3% of the population is Catholic. The 13.7% remaining belong to evangelical denominations. Jehovah's Witnesses account for 1.3%. of the population.