VATICAN CITY (EWTN News)—Christian military life must be seen in light of “love for God and for neighbor,” Pope Benedict XVI told an audience of bishops and priests serving in military ordinaries on Oct. 22.
Christians in the military are called to be “soldiers for love,” the Pope added.
Soldiers who save victims of earthquakes and floods or help refugees place their courage and skills “at the service of the weakness.” Those who clear mines in former theaters of war or soldiers on peace missions who patrol cities and territories to prevent killing all practice charity, he said.
“There are many men and women in uniform, full of faith in Jesus, who love truth and wish to foster peace and, as true disciples of Christ, serve their country by defending fundamental human rights,” the Holy Father continued.
“The Church wishes to offer the military and their families all means of salvation, providing not just ordinary pastoral care, but also the specific help they need to carry out their mission in a spirit of Christian charity.”
The bishops and priests the Pope addressed were participants in the Sixth International Congress of Military Ordinaries and participants in the Third International Training Course on Human Rights for Military Chaplains. Both initiatives have been promoted by the Congregation for Bishops and by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
The events mark the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s apostolic constitution Spirituali Militum Curae, which converted military vicariates into dioceses and ordinariates.
That document gave military ordinaries the chance to foster “appropriate and well-organized pastoral care for an important part of the people of God: military men and women and their families,” Pope Benedict explained.
This pastoral care forms Christians who possess “profound faith,” which they practice with “conviction” as “authentic witnesses of Christ in their own environments.”
He said military bishops and chaplains should be aware of their responsibility to announce the Gospel and administer the sacraments wherever the military and their families are present.
“Clearly, priests involved in this ministry must have a solid human and spiritual formation, constant concern for their own interior lives and, at the same time, a readiness to listen and enter into dialogue, so as to understand the individual and joint difficulties faced by the people entrusted to their care,” he added.
The Pope asked his audience and the priests and deacons who help them to promote “a general renewal of hearts, which is a precondition for that universal peace to which all the world aspires.”