Pope: Laity Still Have Solid Spiritual Basis

Urges Piedmont Bishops to Continue Courageously

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ROME, MARCH 7, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Lay people are longing for holiness, Benedict XVI told the bishops of the Piedmont region of Italy.



The Pope said this today when receiving pilgrims from this region, who were accompanying their bishops for their five-yearly visit to Rome.

"Dear friends, in today's sociocultural context, the Christian faith is faced, also in Piedmont and the Aosta Valley, with many challenges due to agnostic tendencies present in the doctrinal field, as well as pretensions of full ethical and moral autonomy," the Holy Father said.

He added: "It is certainly not easy today to proclaim and witness the Gospel.

"Nevertheless -- and I have been able to verify this in all my conversations and meetings -- there remains in the people a solid spiritual foundation, which is manifested, among other things, in attention to the exigencies of Christian life, in the profound need for God, in the rediscovery of the value of prayer, in esteem for zealous priests and their ministry."

"One notices, moreover, on the part of the lay faithful and groups of apostolic commitment, a more profound need for holiness, the lofty measure of the Christian life," the Pontiff continued.

In charity and truth

Addressing the prelates, Benedict XVI noted "the difficulties that at times the ecclesial communities entrusted to your care have to face." He urged the bishops: "Continue with courage to help them to follow the Lord faithfully, appreciating their spiritual potential and each one's charisms."

"Remind them that no difficulty can separate us from the love of Christ, as St. Paul already affirmed … and build the Church in charity and truth," the Pontiff added.

In an interview on Vatican Radio, Cardinal Severino Poletto, president of the Piedmontese bishops' conference, stressed some particular problems affecting his region such as the demographic fall, the instability of the family and the increase in separations and divorces.

"The solution to these problems is greater formation, more in-depth catechesis," the cardinal said. "I believe that at the root of this -- in addition to problems related to the social situation, to the precariousness of work -- is also a lack of moral sensitivity.

"We are trying to address this moment, very much hoping that the bombardment against the family based on marriage will not influence good Christians too much, called to observe what God says."

The Piedmont ecclesiastical region has 17 dioceses and 2,250 parishes, served by 2,700 diocesan and religious priests.