Bishop Michael Pfeifer,of the San Angelo Diocese,is helping lay the foundation for the church of the future,which will focus on a relationship with Jesus Christ. He said the pope reiterated this in his message to the bishops Wednesday.
“The whole thing has been uplifting for the Catholic people to help us refocus on the most important thing – Jesus Christ,” Pfeifer said.
He spoke during an interview after the pope celebrated Mass Thursday morning in the city's new baseball stadium before a crowd of 47,000. On Wednesday,Pfeifer was one of about 300 bishops who met with the pope.
Pfeifer,who has been a bishop for 23 years,said the pope discussed the sexual abuse scandal that shook the church six years ago,the crumbling family dynamic and secularism.
Pfeifer said he will also bring back the pope's message of encouragement.
“With people back home,his message reinforced the good things we have done,” Pfeifer said.
He said he will reiterate in his preaching the pope's message about the importance of family and strengthening marriage,comforting victims of sexual abuse and being consistent with the teachings of the church throughout the week,not only on Sundays.
“There are some things we are doing,but we need to do some things stronger,” Pfeifer said.
Pfeifer said his community has focused on encouraging victims of sexual abuse to remain faithful to the church,despite some abandonment. Since the scandal,Pfeifer said the church as taken some direct steps to address the issue through clear policy,education of priests,criminal background checks and audits.
“We need to be the healers and reach out to people to make sure this doesn't happen again,” Pfeifer said.
Pfeifer also said churches in west Texas have strengthened marriage preparation through Engaged Encounter,in which engaged couples meet with priests to discuss the dimensions of marriage.
“Marriage is the fundamental cell of society and the church,” Pfeifer said.
But with the United State's 50 percent marriage failure,Pfeifer said the church needs to do more to strengthen marriage after the honeymoon.
Tuesday marked the beginning of the pope's visit to the U.S.,with a rare presidential greeting at Andrews Air Force Base. After meeting with President Bush at the White House on his 81st birthday Wednesday,the pope met with bishops at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Late Thursday,he was to meet with Catholic educators and representatives of other religions.
Pope Benedict will be in New York on Friday where he will speak at the United Nations. He said he hopes to encourage efforts to make the organization a “legitimate voice” for the world.