Pope to Bishops of Latvia, Estonia: Promote the family
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday received the members of the Episcopal Conference of Latvia and Estonia on their Visit ad limina Apostolorum.
In written remarks consigned to the Bishops, Pope Francis noted that the countries of Latvia and Estonia had been oppressed for a long time by regimes founded on ideologies contrary to human dignity and human freedom. Now, he warned the Bishops, “you must measure yourselves against other insidious dangers, such as secularism and relativism.” He encouraged them to work without tiring, having confidence “in the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ, the word of salvation for every man of every time and every culture.”
The Holy Father reminded the Bishops that they are not alone in this “renewed evangelization.” They can count on their priests, and he called on them to commit themselves to continual prayer for vocations. He also asked the Bishops to take good care of the formation of new priests.
Pope Francis also noted the good work of men and women in the consecrated life. “Especially in this Year dedicated to them,” he said, “it is fitting to make sure they understand that they are appreciated not only for the services they perform, but primarily for the intrinsic richness of their charism and witness.”
The lay faithful, too, the Pope said, are “indispensable” for the evangelizing mission. Bishops are called to watch over and encourage the proper mission of the laity, so that the lay faithful can “form their consciences and deepen their sense of the Church, in particular the knowledge of social doctrine.” He encouraged the Bishops with their people to support the ecumenical dialogue which “is so necessary today” when social peace is often disrupted by ethnic and linguistic differences.
As has become common in his addresses to Bishops, Pope Francis also focused on the family, which he called “a gift from God for the full realization of man and woman created in His image.” Today, he continued, marriage is often considered a form of “emotional gratification” that can take any form and be modified at will. He said this “reductive conception” of marriage also affects Christians, leading to an easy recourse to divorce or de facto separations. He called on the Bishops to examine themselves with regard to marriage preparations for young couples, and pastoral care for couples living in irregular situations, “so that the children will not become the first victims and the couples will not feel excluded from the mercy of God and the care of the Church.”
Finally, Pope Francis recognized that the economic crisis has led to emigration in Latvia and Estonia, with consequences for families, which are often headed by a single parent. The pastoral care of Bishops and priests, and the loving support of the communities, is particularly important for these families.
At the conclusion of the Visit, Pope Francis gave his Apostolic Blessing to the Bishops, along with the priests, religious, and lay faithful entrusted to their care.