Vatican City, 22 June 2012 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican the Holy Father received a first group of prelates from the Episcopal Conference of Colombia, who have just completed their "ad limina" visit. The Pontiff began his remarks by praising them for their "initiatives aimed at fomenting a renewed and fruitful movement of evangelisation", at the same time he noted that "Colombia is not immune to the consequences of neglecting God".
"While years ago there was a recognisable and unified social fabric in which reference to the faith and the inspirations of faith was broadly accepted, today in vast areas of society this no longer seems to be the case, due to the crisis in spiritual and moral values which has had a negative effect on many of your fellow citizens", the Holy Father told the prelates. And he invited them to contrast this state of affairs by following "with tenacity and perseverance" the guidelines of the Episcopal Conference's Global Plan (2012 - 2020), and by taking advantage of the reflections to emerge from the forthcoming Synod of Bishops and the Year of Faith".
"Growing religious pluralism", he went on, "calls for serious consideration. The increasingly active presence of Pentecostal and Evangelical communities, not only in Colombia but also in many other regions of Latin America, cannot be ignored or underestimated. In this sense, the people of God are clearly called to purification and the revitalisation of their faith, ... because 'often sincere people who leave our Church do not do so as a result of what non-Catholic groups believe, but fundamentally as a result of their own lived experience; for reasons not of doctrine but of life; not for strictly dogmatic, but for pastoral reasons; not due to theological problems, but to methodological problems of our Church'. What is important, then, is to become better believers ... so that no one may feel marginalised or excluded".
Benedict XVI told his audience that they should not fail "to identify the factors which hinder equitable development in Colombia, seeking to reach out to those whom iniquitous violence deprives of their freedom". You must, he told the prelates, "increase measures and programmes to accompany ... and assist people facing difficulties, especially the victims of natural disasters, the poor, peasants, the sick and the afflicted. ... Nor must you neglect those forced to emigrate from their homeland because they have lost their job or have difficulty finding employment, people whose fundamental rights are trampled underfoot and are forced to abandon home and family under the threat of terror and criminality, or those who have fallen into the barbarous networks of drugs or arms dealing. I wish to encourage you to continue your generous and fraternal service, which is not the result of any human calculation, but is born of love for God and neighbour: the source whence the Church draws the strength she needs to carry out her task"."Dear brothers in the episcopate", the Holy Father concluded, "in order that the Light from on high may still make the Church's prophetic and charitable efforts in Colombia fruitful, continue to help the faithful to a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, ... to meditate assiduously upon the Word of God and to participate ... in the Sacraments, celebrated in accordance with canonical norms and liturgical texts. All this will help towards an appropriate process of Christian initiation, inviting everyone to conversion and sanctity, and helping towards much-need ecclesial renewal".