“Stand tall as heralds of hope!”

CBCP News Online

VATICAN CITY, April 7, 2008—The bishops from the group of islands in the Caribbean known as the Antilles met with the Holy Father this morning and received from him the challenge to “stand tall as heralds of hope!” and combat the destructive social trends in their country.

Addressing the bishops in English, the Holy Father recalled how "your shores have been battered by negative aspects of the entertainment industry, exploitative tourism and the scourge of the arms and drugs trade; influences which not only undermine family life and unsettle the foundations of traditional cultural values, but tend to affect negatively local politics".

In the face of this situation, Pope Benedict called on the bishops to "stand tall as heralds of hope! Be audacious witnesses to the light of Christ, which gives families direction and purpose, and be bold preachers of the power of the Gospel, which must permeate their way of thinking, standards of judgment, and norms of behavior.”

The Holy Father told the bishops that he is “confident that your lived testimony to God’s extraordinary "yes" to humanity (cf. 2 Cor 1:20) will encourage your peoples to reject destructive social trends and to seek ‘faith in action’, embracing all that begets the new life of Pentecost!

Vocations to the priesthood and religious life were also a topic on concern for the Pope, who highlighted the vital importance of "the tireless promotion of vocations together with the guidance and ongoing formation of priests.” He also encouraged the prelates to support the Saint John Vianney and Ugandan Martyrs Seminary, and noted how "the establishment of a Francophone seminary in the region is a welcome sign of hope".

"Your pastoral concern for the decline in religious vocations exemplifies your deep appreciation of consecrated life. I too appeal to your religious communities, encouraging them to reaffirm their calling with confidence and, guided by the Holy Spirit, to propose afresh to young people the ideal of consecration and mission".

The Pope concluded his remarks in French—a common language in the region—saying that each of the bishops "feels the great responsibility to do everything possible to support marriage and family life, which is the primary source of cohesion in communities and hence of vital importance in the eyes of the government authorities.

Lastly, the Holy Father noted that, “Values rooted in the way of truth presented by Christ illuminate the spirit and heart of young people and encourage them to continue along the path of faithfulness, responsibility and real freedom. Good young Christians make good citizens".