The Holy Father met with Latin-rite prelates of the Ukrainian Episcopal Conference who have just completed their ad limina visit.
In his talk to the bishops, the Pope expressed his appreciation for "the catechetical, liturgical, apostolic and charitable activities" in their dioceses. "Your pastoral work," he said, "is undertaken in a territory in which faithful of Latin rite and those of Greek-Catholic rite coexist."
After highlighting how collaboration, even among Catholics, is not always easy due to "the diversity of their respective traditions," Benedict XVI affirmed that "the unity of Catholics within the diversity of rites, and the efforts to express this in all fields, reveal the true face of the Catholic Church and represent a highly eloquent sign for other Christians and for society as a whole."
Referring to the problems the bishops identified in their reports, the Holy Father indicated how the solution "necessarily requires a synergy of efforts for a renewed announcement of the Gospel. The long years of atheist and communist domination have left evident traces in the current generations. These are challenges which call out to you to be met."
"If communion is consolidated within Catholic communities, it will be easier to conduct a fruitful dialogue between the Catholic Church and the other Churches and ecclesial communities," said the Holy Father. In this context, he noted the importance of ecumenism and mentioned the "daily dialogue" Catholics seek to maintain with Orthodox, encouraging the prelates to ensure "that obstacles and even failures do not dampen your enthusiasm."
Benedict XVI also turned to consider "the fundamental importance of adequately forming priests so that they can accomplish their mission as well as possible, and of concern for vocations which," he said, "is a pastoral priority to secure workers for the Lord's harvest.
"The majority of priests," the Pope added, "show true abnegation, joyful generosity and humble adaptation to the precarious situation in which they find themselves, sometimes even forced to face economic difficulties. May God ever conserve and protect them! Love them because they are your indispensable collaborators, support and encourage them, pray for them and with them … Ensure that in seminaries aspiring priests are given a full and balanced formation," without neglecting "the permanent formation of priests."
The Pope concluded his address by underscoring how "the formation of lay men and women capable of bearing witness to their faith is becoming ever more necessary in our times, and is one of the pastoral objectives that must be pursued with determination."