Pope Urges India’s Bishops to Evangelize

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) — Despite challenges, hardship and trials, Catholics in India must continue to evangelize, Pope Benedict XVI said.

“You must always be prepared to spread the Kingdom of God and to walk in the footsteps of Christ, who was himself misunderstood, despised, falsely accused and who suffered for the sake of truth,” the pope told a group of bishops from India.

India has seen a steady rise in anti-Christian violence since the 1990s and the passage of anti-conversion laws in some states. Without specifying “the challenges that the missionary nature of the church entails,” the pope told the bishops to “not be deterred when such trials arise.”

It is the certainty of Christ’s resurrection that gives priests, religious and all Catholics the “confidence and courage to face all that may come and to press forward,” the pope said Sept. 19 at the end of the bishops’ “ad limina” visits.

The church must make sure “appropriate formation is given to those who, genuinely motivated by a love of God and neighbor, wish to become Christians,” so that they, too, may aid effectively in evangelization.

“God welcomes everyone, without distinction, into union with him through the church,” the pope said.

In his address, Pope Benedict also noted the 25th anniversary of Blessed John Paul II’s first apostolic visit to India and his meetings with many leaders of other religions. Pope Benedict reiterated the importance of interreligious dialogue by quoting Pope John Paul who said guaranteeing religious freedom and the right to worship openly must be the focus of interreligious dialogue on all levels.

The pope also praised the selfless, kind, loving and charitable lives of India’s Catholics and said such faith was “a great sign of hope for India and for its future.”

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