Pope John Paul II today welcomed the bishops of England and Wales as they conclude their ad limina visit and focussed his talk to them on the urgent need for an evangelization of culture in view of the increasing secularization of society. "England and Wales," he said, "despite being steeped in a rich Christian heritage, today face the pervasive advance of secularism. At the root of this situation is the attempt to promote a vision of humanity apart from God and removed from Christ. It is a mentality which exaggerates individualism, sunders the essential link between freedom and truth, and consequently destroys the mutual bonds which define social living. This loss of a sense of God is often experienced as 'the abandonment of man'. Social disintegration, threats to family life, and the ugly spectres of racial intolerance and war, leave many men and women, and especially the young, feeling disoriented and at times even without hope. Consequently it is not just the Church which encounters the disturbing effects of secularism but civic life as well." He affirmed that "the phenomena of secularism and widespread religious indifference, the decline in vocations to the priesthood and Religious life, and the grave difficulties experienced by parents in their attempts to catechize their own children, all attest to the vital need for Bishops to embrace their fundamental mission to be authentic and authoritative heralds of the Word." The Holy Father reiterated his "profound conviction that the new millennium demands a 'new impetus in Christian living', saying that "no effort can be spared in finding effective pastoral initiatives to make Jesus Christ known." He highlighted the need to "make the Church the home and school of communion" where there is "authentic pedagogy on prayer, persuasive catechesis on the meaning of liturgy and the importance of the Sunday Eucharist, and promotion of the frequent practice of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. ... The Church needs humble and holy priests, ... models of holiness for the people" they are called to serve. The Pope commended the bishops for their "recent endeavours to promote a 'culture of vocation'" and for their "resolute efforts to bring further energy to youth ministry." He then underscored the importance of the evangelization of culture, especially with regard to Church teachings on marriage, relations with the media and on Catholic schools. "Of particular concern is the need to uphold the uniqueness of marriage as a lifelong union between a man and a woman in which as husband and wife they share in God's loving work of creation. Equating marriage with other forms of cohabitation obscures the sacredness of marriage and violates its precious value in God's plan for humanity." Regarding the mass media, John Paul II said that "the fundamental moral requirement of all communication is that it should respect and serve the truth." Invite the media, he urged, "to join you in breaking down barriers of mistrust and in striving to bring peoples together in understanding and respect." The Pope then turned to "the fine contribution of your Catholic schools, both to enriching the faith of the Catholic community and to promoting excellence within civic life in general. ... Religious education, the heart of any Catholic school, is today a challenging and taxing apostolate" for which "we need teachers with a clear and precise understanding of the specific nature and role of Catholic education. ... Here I would make a special appeal to your Religious not to abandon the school apostolate and indeed to renew their commitment to serve also in schools situated in poorer areas." In concluding remarks, the Holy Father told the prelates that "the message of hope which you proclaim will not fail to evoke fresh fervour and a renewed commitment to Christian life. United in our love of the Lord and inspired by the example of the newly beatified Mother Teresa of Calcutta, let us go forward in hope!"
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