On April 30, Pope Benedict XVI delivered the following thoughts during the General Audience. Reading this is a good way for us to relive the inspirations of that joyful week.
Naturally, the mission and the role of the ecclesial community were at the center of the meeting with the bishops that took place in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, in Washington. In the liturgical context of vespers, we praised the Lord for the path traveled by the people of God in the United States, for the zeal of its pastors, and for the fervor and the generosity of its faithful, which is manifested with a high esteem and openness to the faith, and in innumerable charitable and humanitarian initiatives within the country and outside it.
At the same time, I was able to support my brothers in the episcopate in their difficult task of sowing the Gospel in a society marked by many contradictions, which threaten the coherence of the faithful and of the clergy themselves. I encouraged them to raise their voices on current moral and social questions and to form the lay faithful so that they be good "leaven" in the civil community, starting from the fundamental cell that is the family. In this sense, I exhorted them to re-propose the sacrament of matrimony as a gift and indissoluble commitment between a man and a woman, the natural environment for the welcoming and education of children. The Church and the family, together with schools, especially those of Christian inspiration, should cooperate to offer youth a solid moral education, but in this task the agents of communication and entertainment also have a great responsibility.
Thinking of the sorrowful situation of the sexual abuse of minors committed by ordained ministers, I wanted to express to the bishops my closeness, encouraging them in the commitment to heal the wounds and to reinforce their relationships with their priests. Responding to some questions asked by the bishops, I highlighted a few important aspects: the intrinsic relationship between the Gospel and "natural law"; the healthy concept of freedom, which is understood and fulfilled in love; the ecclesial dimension of the Christian experience; the demand to announce in new ways, especially to youth, "salvation" as the plenitude of life, and to educate them in prayer, from which sprouts the generous response to the call of the Lord.
One of these challenges is certainly that of education, and for this reason, in the Catholic University of America, I met with rectors of universities and Catholic educational centers, with the diocesan leaders responsible for teaching, and with representatives of professors and students. The educational task is an integral part of the mission of the Church, and the U.S. Church community has always been very committed in this field, offering at the same time a great social and cultural service to the entire country. It is important that this can continue. And it is in the same way important to take care of the quality of the Catholic centers of education so that in them, [students] are formed truly according to "the extent of the full stature" of Christ (cf. Ephesians 4:13), joining together faith and reason, truth and liberty. With joy, therefore, I have confirmed the formators in their precious commitment to intellectual charity.
To be continued next week.