Invites Hungarian Bishops to Show Church as Mother

VATICAN CITY, MAY 12, 2008 ( Long years of communist rule left people unable to trust, says Benedict XVI, who urged Hungarian prelates to show the faithful that the Church is a mother.

The Pope made this invitation Saturday when he received prelates from the Hungarian bishops' conference, at the end of their five-yearly visit to Rome.

"The people entrusted to your care now stand before us spiritually, with their joys, their plans, their suffering, their problems and their hopes," the Holy Father said. "The long period of communist rule left a deep mark on the Hungarian people, and even today its consequences are evident, particularly in the difficulty many find in trusting others, a typical trait of people who have long lived in an atmosphere of suspicion.

"The sense of insecurity is accentuated by the difficult economic situation, which thoughtless consumerism does nothing to improve."

"People, including Catholics, suffer from that 'weakness' of thought and will which is so common in our times," the Pontiff lamented. Hence, "profound theological and spiritual reflection becomes difficult because [...] of the lack, on the one hand, of intellectual preparation and, on the other, of an objective reference to the truths of faith."

"In such a situation," he said, "the Church must certainly be a teacher, but always and above all a mother, so as to favor the development of reciprocal trust and the promotion of hope."

Family crisis

Benedict XVI spoke of the effects of secularization in the country, emphasizing the crisis of the family, which includes among its symptoms "a notable drop in the number of marriages and an astonishing increase in divorces," as well as a growth "in so-called de facto couples."

"You have rightly criticized public recognition of homosexual unions, because it runs counter not only to the teaching of the Church but also to the Hungarian Constitution itself," the Holy Father told the prelates. He further noted how "the lack of subsidies for large families has led to a drastic drop in the birthrate, made even more dramatic due to the widespread practice of abortion."

Benedict XVI emphasized that the crisis of values is also affecting young people, and he expressed his appreciation for "the many initiatives the Church promotes, though with the limited means at her disposal, to animate the world of youth with formation activities [...] that stimulate their sense of responsibility."

He praised the bishops' initiatives to "take advantage of and modernize such traditional activities as pilgrimages and expressions of veneration to Hungarian saints, especially St. Elisabeth, St. Emeric, and of course, St. Stephen."

Source of comfort

Benedict XVI also said he shared the prelates' concern "for the lack of priests and the consequent overburden of pastoral work on the current ministers of the Church."

In this context, he invited them to ensure that clergy "do not lose the focus of their lives and their ministry and, as a consequence, remain able to discern the essential from the secondary, identifying the right priorities for everyday life."

But the Pope also pointed out positive elements in the state of the Church in Hungary.

"Despite secularization the Catholic Church remains, for many Hungarians, the religious community of choice or, at least, an important point of reference. It is therefore to be hoped that relations with state authorities remain characterized by respectful collaboration, thanks also to bilateral agreements," the Holy Father said.

And, he affirmed that the unity characterizing the Hungarian prelates "in following the teachings of the Church, is for me a cause of serenity and comfort."