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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"Pope Urges Argentine Bishops to Promote Vocations"

Notes Challenges of Religious, Priestly, Married States

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 17, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is urging Argentine bishops to promote vocations to the priesthood by supporting solid family structures and encouraging youth ministry.

The Pope said this Saturday in an audience with bishops on their five-yearly visit to Rome.

He told them, "The essential role carried out by priests will lead you to make a great effort to promote priestly vocations."

The Pontiff added, "In this regard, it would be appropriate to project a more incisive program of matrimonial and family pastoral care, which takes into account the Christian's vocational dimension, as well as a more audacious program of youth pastoral care, which will help young people to respond with generosity to God's call to them."

Thirty-one Argentine bishops, headed by Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, primate of the country, listened to the Holy Father's words in the Vatican apostolic palace. That morning and on previous days, the Pope met personally with each bishop.

Benedict XVI reviewed the unique challenges facing each state of life in the Church -- bishops, priests, religious and laity -- and also appealed to the bishops to carry out "an effective and exacting discernment of the candidates to sacred orders."

At the same time, he continued, "it is necessary to intensify the formation of seminarians in all their dimensions: human, spiritual, intellectual, emotional and pastoral."

The Pope urged the Argentine bishops to intensify their mutual unity, which will be a "source of consolation in the grave commitment entrusted to you."

He continued, "Thanks to this affective and effective collegiality, no bishop is alone, because he is always closely united to Christ, Good Shepherd, and also, in virtue of his episcopal ordination and of the hierarchical communion, to his brothers in the episcopate and to him whom the Lord has chosen as successor of Peter."

The Pontiff asked the bishops to be close to their priests, "with the love of a father and brother."

He exhorted the prelates to be very charitable and prudent "when you have to correct teachings, attitudes or behavior that are unworthy of the priestly condition of your closest collaborators and which can, moreover, harm and confuse the faith and Christian life of the faithful."

He noted that "it is extremely important to recognize, appreciate and motivate the participation of religious in the diocesan evangelizing activity, which they enrich with the contribution of their respective charisms."

The Holy Father spoke about the lay faithful who "in virtue of their baptism, are called to cooperate in the building of the Body of Christ." He added, "To do so they must be led to have a more lively experience of Jesus Christ and of the mystery of his love."

Argentina has just over 40 million inhabitants of which approximately 92% are Catholics -- though less than 20% are practicing -- 2% are Protestants, 2% are Jews and 4% belong to other denominations.

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