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Pope Wants U.S. Catholics To Lead World Church into Renewal

Speaking on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI, U.S. papal nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano delivered a rousing speech at the Pontifical College Josephinum in which he called on American Catholics to "lead the entire Church in the world" into renewal.

The Catholic News Service is reporting that Archbishop Vigano made his remarks to seminarians and benefactors of the College at its annual rector's dinner on April 23. While not specifically mentioning the tension between leaders of the Church in the U.S. and the Obama Administration's recent encroachments of religious liberty, his remarks spoke to the current state of affairs with power and eloquence.

After calling upon the Church in the U.S. to lead the world in a revitalization effort, he added: "This is a great task, but you have the determination and the grace to do it. This I know is the vision of the Holy Father regarding the Church in the United States."

Calling the current situation for the U.S. Church to be one of great challenge, he reassured the audience: "Where there are challenges, there also is a moment of grace. The challenge is that we are put in a situation where we have to overcome the difficulties, and we know that the grace is always overwhelming and amazing for us."

He went on to note that the Church has experienced other eras in its history when it was challenged, and people thought it would disappear. This is nothing new, he said, noting the observations of the fourth century bishop, St. Ambrose, who compared the Church to the moon in the way it seems to become full, then almost slips from sight only to grow again.

"We are not to lose hope in a difficult moment, and at the same time, we have to be conscious that always we are challenged by the devil ... who wants to destroy the Church," he said.

However, the mission to evangelize should go beyond the borders of America, he said, and called upon the U.S. church "to be missionaries not only to the Third World, but especially to the countries of Europe.

"Christianity (in Europe) in some way has lost its strength and needs an example," he said, noting "very positive signs of growth" in vocations to the priesthood and the religious life in the United States.

There are currently 180 seminarians from 29 U.S. dioceses studying for the priesthood at the Josephinum, the highest number in 25 years.  

"I've been taken by surprise since I arrived here ... because everywhere that I've been, everything has been much beyond all of the imaginations and the expectations I had," he said.

He ended his 10 minute address on an encouraging note.

"This is a moment in which we can form young people with a great enthusiasm to be witnesses to the Gospel ... to give witness of the fact our Lord has died, is risen and is alive."

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