Saturday morning in Castelgandolfo, the Holy Father received 98 bishops from 44 countries on four continents. The prelates have been participating a course of "aggiornamento" organized annually by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the prefect of which is Cardinal Ivan Dias.
In his address, the Pope dwelt upon the efforts that have to be made to ensure that the announcement of the Gospel reaches everyone, and upon the need to evangelize cultures and "encourage sincere and open dialogue with one and all, so that together we can build a more fraternal and united humanity.
"Only when driven by the love of Christ," he added, "is it possible to bring to completion this apostolic labor, which demands the intrepid courage of those who, for the Lord's sake, do not fear even persecution and death." On this subject, he recalled the "heroic witnesses to the Gospel" of previous centuries, as well as the recent sacrifice of "Sr. Leonella Sgorbati, missionary sister of the Consolata, barbarously murdered in Mogadishu, Somalia," on September 17.
Benedict XVI told his audience that in order to be good pastors, they had to set an example in all fields of life. It is likewise vital, he said, "that you give primary importance in your episcopal ministry to prayer and to the incessant striving for sanctity. It is also important that you concern yourselves with the serious formation of seminarians and with the permanent 'aggiornamento' of priests and catechists."
He went on: "Maintaining the unity of the faith in the diversity of its cultural expressions is another precious service required of you. ... This means that you must remain united to your flock, following the example of Christ the Good Shepherd, and that the flock must always remain united to you. As sentinels of the People of God, avoid divisions with firmness and courage, especially when they are due to ethnic or socio-cultural reasons. They damage the unity of the faith and undermine the announcement and witness of the Gospel of Christ."
After expressing his joy at "the continual flowering of vocations to the priesthood and the religious life," in many of their churches, the Pope called on the prelates to ensure that seminaries have "a sufficient number of formators, chosen and trained with care, who must first and foremost be examples and models for the seminarians. ... It is upon the training of future priests and of all other pastoral care workers, especially catechists, that the future of your communities and of the Universal Church depends."