Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 29, 2006
Pope deplores Canada's falling birthrate
By CINDY WOODEN
Catholic News Service
Canada's declining birthrate is a sign of a lack of hope in the future, a pessimism that is fed by growing secularism, Pope Benedict XVI said.
Meeting bishops from Canada's Atlantic region May 20, the pope said the "plummeting birthrate" in Eastern Canada is a "disturbing testimony to uncertainty and fear, even if not always conscious."
The bishops from New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island were making their ad limina visits to the Vatican.
Bishop Raymond Lahey of Antigonish, N.S., president of the regional bishops' conference, told the pope that lower birthrates and a population shift to large cities have meant most dioceses in the region are facing a serious need to reorganize or consolidate parishes.
But an even bigger concern, he said, is the disappearance of local cultures and the traditional life of small towns, which included an active participation in Church life.
Lahey said media are devoid of or even hostile to Christian values and have fueled secularism, "under the guise of avoiding the promotion of religion."
In response, he said, the bishops are giving priority to evangelization, religious education and the revitalization of ministry.
Pope Benedict encouraged the bishops to take every step possible to support the Christian faith that has been "the cultural soul" of Canada's people for centuries.
"The attempt to promote a vision of humanity apart from God's transcendent order and indifferent to Christ's beckoning light removes from the reach of ordinary men and women the experience of genuine hope," the pope said.
In the face of confusion sown by secularism, he said, people look to the bishops "to be men of hope, preaching and teaching with passion the splendour of the truth of Christ."
Pope Benedict said he knows the bishops face serious challenges, particularly with an aging clergy and the faithful spread over a vast area, but "no effort can be spared in finding effective pastoral initiatives to make Jesus Christ known."
"Particular care," he said, "must be taken to ensure that the intrinsic relationship between the Church's magis-terium, individuals' faith and testimony in public life is preserved and promoted."
Only when Catholics live what the Church teaches can the Church be effective in healing the "debilitating split between the Gospel and culture."
Pope Benedict told the bishops that the necessary reorganization of their dioceses and parishes to meet the needs of a shifting population and lack of priests must include a strong component of spiritual renewal.
New parish configurations, he said, must not be a response to personnel needs alone, but must result in the formation of communities that are schools of holiness where all the faithful are attentive to the will of God.