“One of the most formidable obstacles to our pastoral mission is ignorance of the content of faith. Indeed, this is a dual form of ignorance: the ignorance of Jesus Christ as a person and ignorance of the sublime nature of His teachings, of their universal and permanent value in the search for the meaning of life and happiness. In the new generations this ignorance produces an inability to understand history or to recognise themselves as heirs to this tradition, which has shaped European life, society, art and culture”. – Pope Benedict XVI
Vatican City, 30 November 2012 (VIS) – “The Church in France has a long heritage of saints, doctors, martyrs and confessors of the faith. You are the heirs to a history of great human experience and immense spiritual richness. … These origins and this glorious past, always present in our thought and dear to our spirit, nurture great hope in solid and bold faith, allowing us to rise to the challenges of the third millennium and to listen to the hopes of contemporary humanity, to which only God can give a satisfactory answer”.
With these words, Benedict XVI received the third group of bishops from the Episcopal Conference of France at the end of their “ad limina” visit. The Pope observed that “the Good News we must announce to mankind in all times and in all languages and cultures, may be summarised in these words: God, creator of mankind, in His son Jesus, has shown us His love for humanity. ‘God is love’ and pursues the happiness of His creation, of all His children. The pastoral constitution ‘Gaudium et spes’ asks key questions on human existence, the meaning of life and death, evil, disease and suffering, all present in our world. It recalls that, in His paternal goodness, God brings answers to all these questions and that Christ founded His Church in order to bring those answers to all mankind. This is the reason why one of the gravest problems of our time is the ignorance of religion on the part of many men and women, also among the Catholic faithful”.
“This is why the new evangelisation, in which the Church is resolutely engaged, … assumes such importance”, the Pope continued. “One of the most formidable obstacles to our pastoral mission is ignorance of the content of faith. Indeed, this is a dual form of ignorance: the ignorance of Jesus Christ as a person and ignorance of the sublime nature of His teachings, of their universal and permanent value in the search for the meaning of life and happiness. In the new generations this ignorance produces an inability to understand history or to recognise themselves as heirs to this tradition, which has shaped European life, society, art and culture”.
“The new evangelisation will be effective if it engages deeply with communities and parishes. The signs of vitality and involvement of the laity in French society are already encouraging. … The laity are the face of the world within the Church, and at the same time the face the Church presents to the world”. Benedict XVI emphasised, however, that the Church in Europe and in France can no longer remain indifferent to the diminution of vocations and priestly ordinations. … All available energy must be urgently mobilised so as to bring the voice of the Lord to the young. God calls when and to whom He wishes. Without doubt, Christian families and communities offer particularly fertile ground”.
“The young are the hope and future of the Church and the world”, continued the Holy Father, emphasising “the importance of Catholic education”. “Catholic institutes clearly play a primary role in the great dialogue between faith and culture. The love of truth that shines in them is in itself a great evangeliser. Places of learning and dialogue, as well as centres of research, must be further developed and more ambitious in scope”. The Pope praised the initiatives of some French dioceses to encourage greater knowledge of theology among young people who study other disciplines. “Theology is a source of wisdom, joy and wonder that should not be reserved only to seminarians, priests and consecrated persons”, he added.
Benedict XVI concluded by mentioning Catholic schools, which “have shaped the Christian and cultural life” of France, and which bear ‘historical responsibility’. “A way must be found to place faith at the centre of their educational mission … Education in Christian values provides the key to the culture of your nation. By opening young people to hope and true freedom, such education will continue to be a source of dynamism and creativity. The ardour of the new evangelisation will be our greatest contribution to the flowering of human society and the best answer to the varied challenges we face at the beginning of the third millennium”.