13 September 2021
Ad Limina Visits have recommenced after the stop due to pandemic
France: Continuing dialogue with society
A few days ago, with the arrival of the first of the three groups of the bishops from France to the Dicastery, the ad limina visits, which had been abruptly suspended in March 2020 due to the global health crisis, have recommenced. Participants were physically present at the meeting, and while social distancing was respected, there was a sweet and profound feeling of a return to normality.
In their pilgrimage to the threshold of Peter, the bishops from Southern France brought with them the burdens and promises of their communities. The bishops pointed out the strong contrasts and rifts that have emerged throughout the country regarding the issues of bioethics that have dominated public debate in recent months and the adoption of the law on medically assisted procreation. In this scenario, Christian anthropology appears less and less significant for society. Even the marriage-based family model inspired by the Gospel is no longer the prevailing choice among their fellow countrymen. In fact, since 2018, 55% of French people have organized their family life outside the context of marriage.
However, in the midst of this bleak scenario, the bishops shared their firm intention to continue presenting the Christian viewpoint with an attitude of dialog towards society, and avoid the logic of opposition: "The Church lives in the midst of this society, and it is she whom we are called to serve by bearing witness to Christ," they declared. The pastors then reaffirmed their effort to bring the laity back to this world, the privileged place of their witness. In fact, they pointed out that the generous commitment of their faithful as regards social issues has always been strong, a willingness that peaked with the acceptance of many migrants. The road towards the full co-responsibility of the laity in the mission of the Church is still long - the prelates admitted - but much work has been done in this direction. The number of LMEs (laity in ecclesial mission) is growing almost everywhere. With or without an explicit missionary mandate, with or without instituted ministries, nowadays lay people are responsible for entire sectors of the Church's pastoral ministry, such as, for example, the service of supporting the bereaved. The surprising phenomenon of the apostolic commitment of so many young couples in the first years of their married life is part of these promising novelties that give hope for an increasingly synodal Church where the faithful of every state of life happily collaborate. The bishops also commended the presence and vitality of so many movements and new communities, some of them French and many others international, which ensure the formation of the laity, offering them, according to their charisms, privileged channels for an apostolic commitment.
In encouraging the bishops to continue their mission without losing heart, the Dicastery then reiterated how fundamental it is to support these processes, as well as the people and institutions that carry them out. For this, it is necessary to train priests and lay people in the art of accompaniment.