VATICAN CITY, 10 MAY 2008 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received prelates from the Hungarian Catholic Bishops' Conference, at the end of their "ad limina" visit.
"The people entrusted to your care", he told them, "now stand before us spiritually, with their joys, their plans, their suffering, their problems and their hopes. ... 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", the Pope added. "People, including Catholics, suffer from that 'weakness' of thought and will which is so common in our times". 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 the Church must certainly be a teacher, but always and above all a mother, so as to favour the development of reciprocal trust and the promotion of hope".
The Holy Father then went on to speak of the effects of secularisation in the country, highlighting 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 criticised 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, recalling how "the lack of subsidies for large families has led to a drastic drop in the birth-rate, made even more dramatic thanks to the widespread practice of abortion".
Benedict XVI emphasised the fact 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 formational activities ... that stimulate their sense of responsibility".
He praised the bishops' initiatives to "take advantage of and modernise such traditional activities as pilgrimages and expressions of veneration to Hungarian saints, especially St. Elisabeth, St. Emeric, and of course St. Stephen". Pope Benedict then told the prelates that he shared their 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 the 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".
"Despite secularisation 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 characterised by respectful collaboration, thanks also to bilateral agreements", the Holy Father said. Finally, in closing, he noted how the unity characterising the Hungarian prelates "in following the teachings of the Church is for me a cause of serenity and comfort".
AL/.../HUNGARY VIS 20080512 (560)