Bishops as defenders of the faith
Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect for the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops, said that every bishop is required to proclaim the Church's teachings to modern society. "In addition to the virtues that are normally demanded of a bishop, this capacity is particularly necessary today", he said.
In an interview with the Italian daily L'Avvenire on 18 November, Cardinal Ouellet described the involved process of selecting a new bishop which requires taking the opinions of numerous people into account.
"This research provides important elements for ruling out certain candidates and accepting and proposing others," he said. "In some cases, additional inquiries need to be carried out. Altogether, it is a serious process that is normally done well."
Cardinal Ouellet noted he has had some candidates turn down their appointments. "There have been quite a few more than I expected," he said. One of the main reasons for this trend is that "in recent years, the role of the bishop, and of authorities in general, both religious and political, is not at all easy."
Ultimately, all bishops must realise that their mission is to serve Christ and the Church and not themselves. "Bishops should know who they are working for, that is, for the Lord and for the Church. Not for themselves. When this happens, it becomes apparent in the way in which their personality is expressed."
Catholic News Agency
New York bishops' ad limina
Pope Benedict XVI told a group of American bishops not to be silenced by those who seek to muzzle Catholicism in public life. "Despite attempts to still the Church's voice in the public square, many people of good will continue to look to her for wisdom, insight and sound guidance," he said in his address to 20 bishops of New York during their ad limina visit on 26 November.
The Pope called upon them to "exercise the prophetic dimension of your episcopal ministry by speaking out, humbly yet insistently, in defence of moral truth, and offering a word of hope, capable of opening hearts and minds to the truth that sets us free."
Benedict spoke about the need for a "new evangelisation" of the United States, where people of many religious and political persuasions have shown an "increased sense of concern ... for the future of our democratic societies." This stemmed from "a troubling breakdown in the intellectual, cultural and moral foundations of social life," accompanied by "a growing sense of dislocation and insecurity, especially among the young, in the face of wide-ranging societal changes."
A new evangelisation of this society would require spiritual and intellectual renewal within the Church.
Catholic universities should play a leading role in bringing the Gospel to society. He praised those which had found "a renewed sense of their ecclesial mission" and shown faithfulness to their Catholic identity. "Young people have a right to hear clearly the Church's teaching and, most importantly, to be inspired by the coherence and beauty of the Christian message so that they in turn can instil in their peers a deep love of Christ and his Church."
The Pope also welcomed the new English translation of the Mass, which he said should inspire an "ongoing catechesis," helping the faithful grasp "the true nature of the liturgy" as a participation in "Christ's saving sacrifice for the redemption of the world." A right understanding of worship was essential for the Church's mission in society.
On the other hand, he added, "A weakened sense of the meaning and importance of Christian worship can only lead to a weakened sense of the specific and essential vocation of the laity to imbue the temporal order with the spirit of the Gospel."
Pope urges an end to the death penalty
During a General Audience in December, Benedict XVI encouraged countries around the world to end the death penalty as a legal sanction. Addressing a group of delegates gathered in Rome for an international conference on capital punishment, the Pope said he hoped their deliberations would "encourage the political and legislative initiatives being promoted in a growing number of countries to eliminate the death penalty."
The conference was organised by the Italian-based Sant'Egidio Community under the theme of "No Justice without Life."
The Pope told them that he applauded "the substantive progress made in conforming penal law both to the human dignity of prisoners and the effective maintenance of public order."
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that the traditional teaching of the Church "does not exclude" recourse to the death penalty when it is "the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor." It adds, however, that today such cases are "very rare, if not practically non-existent."
Recent figures suggest that around a third of the world's countries use the death penalty as part of their legal code. In the United States, there are currently 34 states where the death penalty is legal.