This morning, the Holy Father received prelates from the Canadian (Western) Conference of Catholic Bishops who have recently completed their “ad limina” visit.

In his English-language talk to them, the Pope touched on the parable of the prodigal son, asking whether the elder brother does not in some way represent “those who sadly distance themselves from the Church? … Unable to think beyond the limits of natural justice, he remains trapped within envy and pride, detached from God, isolated from others and ill at ease with himself.”

“The bishop’s responsibility to indicate the destructive presence of sin,” said the Pope, “is readily understood as a service of hope: it strengthens believers to avoid evil and to embrace the perfection of love and the plenitude of Christian life. I wish therefore to commend your promotion of the Sacrament of Penance. While this Sacrament is often considered with indifference, what it effects is precisely the fullness of healing for which we long.”

Benedict XVI highlighted the fact that the failure to recognize sin “is ultimately a weakening of our relationship with God.” Where God is excluded from public life, he said, “the sense of offence against God – the true sense of sin – dissipates, just as when the absolute value of moral norms is relativized the categories of good or evil vanish, along with individual responsibility.”

“When the need to seek forgiveness and the readiness to forgive are forgotten, in their place a disturbing culture of blame and litigiousness arises. This ugly phenomenon, however, can be dispelled.”

Pope Benedict went on to refer to the work of the Catholic Aboriginal Council for Reconciliation and the Amerindian Fund, saying “such initiatives bring hope and bear witness to the love of Christ which draws us forward.” In this context, he called on the prelates “to address with compassion and determination the underlying causes of the difficulties surrounding the social and spiritual needs of the Aboriginal faithful.

“Commitment to truth opens the way to lasting reconciliation through the healing process of asking for forgiveness and granting forgiveness – two indispensable elements for peace. In this way our memory is purified, our hearts are made serene, and our future is filled with a well-founded hope in the peace which springs from truth.”
VIS

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