DAILY CATHOLIC FRI-SAT-SUN November 19-21, 1999 vol. 10, no. 220
NEWS & VIEWS
POPE CALLS GERMAN BISHOPS TO WITNESS TO LIFE
Refers to Relativism and Dissension Within German Church
VATICAN CITY, NOV 18 (ZENIT).- The Church in Germany must "give unanimous and clear witness to the Gospel of Life," the Holy Father said to the second group of German bishops, who are in Rome for their five-year "ad limina" visit to the Pontiff and the Holy See.
The Pope's appeal had a marked personal dimension. "Perhaps Providence has entrusted me with the chair of Peter to be an impassioned 'advocate of life' on the threshold of the third millennium." John Paul II remarked that in saying this, he was not improvising. "During a particularly dark chapter in the history of this century, in my youth I experienced how human life was trampled and annihilated not far from Wadowice, the city of my birth!" Although he did not mention it, it should be noted that not far from Karol Wojtyla's birthplace, is the notorious Auschwitz -- one among a number of extermination camps.
Among the bishops present at the meeting was Bishop Karl Lehmann of Mainz, president of the Episcopal Conference, and other prelates from Passau, Spira and Augsburg.
The Pope recalled that in recent letters sent the German bishops, in an attempt to resolve the divisions provoked by the certificate given by Catholic consultation centers to pregnant women seeking an abortion, he has tried to unite them "in the unique and grand symphony of life, to which the Catholic Church must always and everywhere be faithful."
The Bishops and Pontiff
In this connection, the Pope -- who added no further comments on the issue of the consultations centers -- took time to analyze the bishops' work, who "carry out their mission with the Bishop of Rome," as the latter, "being the pastor of all the faithful, has the mission to attend to the common good of the whole Church and the good of each one of the churches, presiding over the universal community of love." This does not mean that the supreme and universal power of the Pope annuls the bishops' own power, the Pope clarified. On the contrary, it "is confirmed, corroborated and affirmed by him." And he added: "together with the Supreme Pontiff, and under his authority, the bishops have the mission to perpetuate the work of Christ."
Quoting Vatican Council II, John Paul II explained that "the task of the pastors consists in teaching Christian doctrine and discipline in a manner appropriate to the needs of the time in which we live, in such a way that it responds to the difficulties and problems that afflict the anguished men of today."
"The men and women of today are more sensitive to the witness of our life than the power of our speeches. They want to see in us persons whose life is totally oriented to Jesus Christ."
The Pope did not fail to point out "the climate of mistrust and hostility" in which the German bishops have to carry out their mission, "as many contemporaries are opposed to the demand for certainty in knowledge of the truth." This is "a very widespread mentality today, which tries to exclude from life the questions on ultimate truths and relegates religious faith and the conviction of moral values to the private sphere."
Consequently, the Pope asked "what is the role attributed to God at present, to whom fifty years ago the fathers of the fundamental law of your country wanted to make explicit reference, when they referred at the beginning of the Constitution to 'awareness of their responsibility before God and men.' "
Unfortunately, "in a climate of widespread religious individualism, some members of the Church even arrogate to themselves the right to choose what in their judgment is admissible in matters of faith and teachings. But the truths of the faith are an organic whole, which does not allow for such arbitrary discriminations," the Pope said.
Arriving at this point, the Holy Father called on the bishops to announce the Gospel in a courageous and serene way in all circumstances. "Without a doubt, moral conscience must be respected as a man's 'sanctuary,' in which he is alone with God, whose voice resounds in the intimacy of his heart. But with equal fervor you must remind your faithful that conscience is an exacting tribunal, whose judgment must always conform to God's norms, authoritatively proposed by the Church with the help of the Spirit."
The Holy Father said that if the bishops announce "in a clear and unanimous
way the teachings on these questions, they will influence in a positive way
the necessary return to the sacrament of reconciliation in a positive way,
which, tragically, today is deserted, including in the Catholic regions of
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NEWS & VIEWS