Benedict XVI to US bishops (Region I-II-III) during their ad limina visit

The Holy Father delivered the following address to the bishops of the USA (regions I-II-III) during their ad limina visit.

Let’s have a glance with my emphases and comments.

Dear Brother Bishops,

I greet you all with affection in the Lord and, through you, the Bishops from the United States who in the course of the coming year will make their visits ad limina Apostolorum.

Our meetings are the first since my 2008 Pastoral Visit to your country, which was intended to encourage the Catholics of America in the wake of the scandal and disorientation caused by the sexual abuse crisis of recent decades. [Right off the bat, His Holiness is getting to a topic of serious concern.] I wished to acknowledge personally the suffering inflicted on the victims and the honest efforts made both to ensure the safety of our children and to deal appropriately and transparently with allegations as they arise. [Contrary to some, the US Church has made huge, sweeping changes.] It is my hope that the Church’s conscientious efforts to confront this reality will help the broader community [Virtually every sphere of life in which children off all ages are involved.] to recognize the causes, true extent and devastating consequences of sexual abuse, and to respond effectively to this scourge which affects every level of society. By the same token, just as the Church is rightly held to exacting standards in this regard, all other institutions, without exception, should be held to the same standards.

A second, equally important, [get that?] purpose of my Pastoral Visit was to summon the Church in America to recognize, in the light of a dramatically changing social and religious landscape, the urgency and demands of a new evangelization. In continuity with this aim, I plan in the coming months to present for your consideration a number of reflections which I trust you will find helpful for the discernment you are called to make in your task of leading the Church into the future which Christ is opening up for us.

Many of you have shared with me your concern about the grave challenges to a consistent Christian witness presented by an increasingly secularized society. I consider it significant, however, that there is also an increased sense of concern on the part of many men and women, whatever their religious or political views, for the future of our democratic societies. They see a troubling breakdown in the intellectual, cultural and moral foundations of social life, and a growing sense of dislocation and insecurity, especially among the young, in the face of wide-ranging societal changes. [NB] Despite attempts to still the Church’s voice in the public square, [There’s a key phrase.] many people of good will continue to look to her for wisdom, insight and sound guidance in meeting this far-reaching crisis. The present moment can thus be seen, in positive terms, as a summons to exercise the prophetic dimension of your episcopal ministry by speaking out, humbly yet insistently, in defense of moral truth, and offering a word of hope, capable of opening hearts and minds to the truth that sets us free.

At the same time, the seriousness of the challenges which the Church in America, under your leadership, is called to confront in the near future cannot be underestimated. [The Holy Father is not blowing happy gas at the bishops, is he.] The obstacles to Christian faith and practice raised by a secularized culture also affect the lives of believers, leading at times to that “quiet attrition” from the Church which you raised with me during my Pastoral Visit. Immersed in this culture, believers are daily beset by the objections, the troubling questions and the cynicism of a society which seems to have lost its roots, by a world in which the love of God has grown cold in so many hearts. [NB!] Evangelization thus appears not simply a task to be undertaken ad extra; [There it is, folks!  This is the distinction I make here all the time about what I think is Pope Benedict’s “Marshall Plan”… ad extra and ad intra.  These were also the categories presented to the Council Fathers as the First Session revved up, so they don’t originate with me, of course, or with Pope Benedict.  They have been around for a loooong time.  These are very useful distinctions as we consider where we are and what we have to do. ] we ourselves are the first to need re-evangelization. [ad intra] As with all spiritual crises, whether of individuals or communities, we know that the ultimate answer can only be born of a searching, critical and ongoing self-assessment and conversion in the light of Christ’s truth. Only through such interior renewal will we be able to discern and meet the spiritual needs of our age with the ageless truth of the Gospel.

Here I cannot fail to express my appreciation of the real progress which the American Bishops have made, individually and as a Conference, in responding to these issues and in working together to articulate a common pastoral vision, the fruits of which can be seen, for example, in your recent documents on faithful citizenship and on the institution of marriage. [Progress, people.  There is more to do.] The importance of these authoritative expressions of your shared concern for the authenticity of the Church’s life and witness in your country should be evident to all.

[And now to a liturgical issue…] In these days, the Church in the United States is implementing the revised translation of the Roman Missal. I am grateful for your efforts to ensure that this new translation will inspire an ongoing catechesis which emphasizes the true nature of the liturgy and, above all, the unique value of Christ’s saving sacrifice for the redemption of the world. [NB:] A weakened sense of the meaning and importance of Christian worship can only lead to a weakened sense of the specific and essential vocation of the laity to imbue the temporal order with the spirit of the Gospel. [There can be NO REEVANGELIZATION without a true renewal of our LITURGICAL WORSHIP.  Worship is the key, the “tip of the spear”.] America has a proud tradition of respect for the sabbath; this legacy needs to be consolidated as a summons to the service of God’s Kingdom and the renewal of the social fabric in accordance with its unchanging truth.

In the end, however, the renewal of the Church’s witness to the Gospel in your country is essentially linked to the recovery of a shared vision and sense of mission by the entire Catholic community. I know that this is a concern close to your own heart, as reflected in your efforts to encourage communication, [Another part of the reevangelization should include, in my opinion, a deeper “theology of communication”.  I spoke about this at a conference in Houston and have written about it on this blog.  Consider all that Vatican II’s document on communication and the document on liturgy were the first two documents approved and promulgated.  Liturgy is also “communication”.] discussion and consistent witness at every level of the life of your local Churches. I think in particular of the importance of Catholic universities and the signs of a renewed sense of their ecclesial mission, [?!? Ha!] as attested by the discussions marking the tenth anniversary of the Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae, [riiiiight] and such inititiatives as the symposium recently held at Catholic University of America on the intellectual tasks of the new evangelization. Young people have a right to hear clearly the Church’s teaching and, most importantly, to be inspired by the coherence and beauty of the Christian message, [First and foremost experience in her worship, btw.] so that they in turn can instill in their peers a deep love of Christ and his Church.

Dear Brother Bishops, I am conscious of the many pressing and at times apparently insoluble problems which you face daily in the exercise of your ministry. With the confidence born of faith, and with great affection, I offer you these words of encouragement and willingly commend you and the clergy, religious and lay faithful of your Dioceses to the intercession of Mary Immaculate, Patroness of the United States. To all of you I impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of wisdom, strength and peace in the Lord.

A good lead off speech to the bishops of the USA.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. KAS says:

    Pope Benedict XVI ROCKS!!

    I hope our Bishops take his words to heart and become bold witnesses in the public sector, speaking out on good and evil, and calling on the carpet those elected officials who push the culture of death while piously claiming to be Catholic in good standing!

    My prayers are for the Bishops!

  2. Joe in Canada says:

    The only thing he omitted was the serious problem to evangelization raised by very prominent Catholics who oppose the Church’s teaching on important issues.

  3. Hidden One says:

    In some places in higher education in the States, I do think that there has been more attention paid to Catholic identity in recent times.

  4. Pardon my apparent dense-ness but what bishops are in what regions? I am from the Archdiocese of Detroit and I was wondering what region it falls into. I remember seeing it once but I forgot where I saw it. If anyone could help me, I would be most appreciative.

    Have a blessed day!

  5. Here’s a region breakdown for anyone else who might need it. I didn’t have a clue:

  6. Dr. K says:

    I pray that Bishops Clark and Hubbard were the beneficiaries of serious individual fraternal correction from Pope Benedict as part of this ad limina. God knows we Catholics of upstate NY need serious help.

  7. John V says:

    I think the bishops of Region III (PA & NJ) have their ad limina visit this coming week. Perhaps a typo in the bollettino.

  8. catholicmidwest says:

    Ad intra, at least as much as ad extra. It’s astonishing how many Catholics don’t seem to have an elementary grasp on Christian basics that they, above all, ought to know as members of the Church. Examples are things like “Christ died for our sins” and “there is a heaven” and ” God deserves respect.” Some Catholics appear to have been inoculated against the a really good case of Christianity by the very culture that raised them. We have to find out what’s causing that and see if we can’t make it less potent. [I, for one, am convinced that the translation we were using was one of those causes. I’m even more convinced of this listening to the reasoning of some Catholics in the wake of the rollout than I was before. But it’s not the only cause, by far.]

  9. pj_houston says:

    “Faithful Citizenship” although improved is still an awful, confusing document. How can the pope praise this? He must not have read it….

  10. Marie Teresa says:

    Is anyone aware of an act of penance (prayer or mortification or sacrifice) being undertaken by Catholics to atone for the sexual abuse that did occur?

    Forgive me if this is clumsily worded.

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