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Pope speaks to NZ bishops about impact of secularism

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Catholic bishops have begun arriving back in New Zealand after their ad limina visit to Rome, where they met with Pope Benedict XVI and various Vatican departments.

Pope Benedict XVI told the bishops of New Zealand and the Pacific Islands that the Christian faith provides the best foundation for society and acknowledged the challenge secularism posed to the bishops.

It is "a reality that has a significant impact on the understanding and practice of the Catholic faith. This is seen specifically in a weakened appreciation for the sacred nature of Christian marriage and the stability of the family," he said.

The Holy Father spoke of the recently established Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, an effort to re-evangelize countries that were once Christian but have become secularized.

"The New Evangelization is not an abstract concept but a renewal of authentic Christian living based on the teachings of the Church," said the Holy Father. "You, as Bishops and Pastors, are called to be protagonists in formulating this response according to local needs and circumstances in your various countries and among your peoples... Build among yourselves an ever stronger sense of faith and charity, so that those whom you serve, in their turn, may imitate your charity and be ambassadors of Christ both in the Church and in the civil arena".

He encouraged the bishops to have "a special care" for their priests.

"Be a father who guides them on the path to holiness, so that their lives may also attract others to follow Christ. We know that good, wise and holy priests are the best promoters of vocations to the priesthood. With the confidence that comes from faith, we can say that the Lord is still calling men to the priesthood, and you are aware that encouraging them to consider dedicating their lives fully to Christ is among your top priorities," he said.

On behalf of the Pacific Island bishops and the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop John Dew addressed the Holy Father and thanked him for his leadership of the Church today.

In his address, Archbishop Dew explained that New Zealand, in particular, has become a very secular country and that both New Zealand and the Pacific Islands have suffered economically over recent years.

"There are many pressures on individuals and families. We are pleased to say that both Conferences are aided by our clergy and our close collaborators - our Catholic Schools. We all try to counteract secularism by encouraging our Catholic people to be a true leaven in society. The Churches in our countries are young and vital, they are Churches which continue to search for ways to grow in holiness, and to find new ways to live and preach the Gospel, he said.

He spoke of the 2008 World Youth Day in Sydney as a recent highlight for the New Zealand Church. "The highpoint of the week for all was the Vigil and the Mass celebrated by you. We thank you for your presence in Sydney and for your inspirational ministry to our young people," he said to the Holy Father.

"The canonization of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop was celebrated as much throughout New Zealand and the Pacific as it was in Australia. St Mary of the Cross had visited New Zealand and lived there for some time; her Sisters have worked and are working in many of our jurisdictions," said Archbishop Dew.

"It is the fervent hope of all of us that the Cause for Beatification of Suzanne Aubert, the Foundress of New Zealand's only indigenous religious Order - the Daughters of Our Lady of Compassion- will be progressed through the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. She is known and revered throughout New Zealand and the Pacific as she was among the first Missionaries to come to our part of the world. She is remembered for her life and sanctity and for her unstinting care of the Maori people. We pray for her Beatification".

During their ad limina the New Zealand bishops met with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to discuss the Cause for the Beatification of Suzanne Aubert.

During their meeting with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith the bishops spoke about the importance of reinforcing the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and how next year will present a special opportunity to do this as it marks the 50th anniversary of Vatican II. Next year will also mark 20 years since Catechism of the Catholic Church was introduced.

The ad limina visit happens every five-seven years. The last ad limina visit for the New Zealand Catholic bishops was in 2004. During an ad limina visit bishops meet with the Pope and visit the tombs of the Apostles Saints Peter and Paul. They also meet with various Vatican departments. Prior to their visit, the bishops submit a report on their <a href="http://catholic.org.nz/about/dsp-default.cfm?loadref=1">diocese</a> for the Pope.

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