The Pope affirmed this today when he met with the participants at the 58th Plenary Assembly of the Italian episcopal conference. The meeting is under way in the Vatican through Friday.
"As heralds of the Gospel and guides of the Catholic community, you are also called to participate in the exchange of ideas in the public domain, to help mold adequate cultural attitudes," he stressed to the prelates.
Benedict XVI noted how Italy wants to "begin a new stage of economic, but also of civil and moral growth," saying that "as bishops we cannot fail to make our specific contribution [to this endeavor]."
In this context, "we must above all say and witness with frankness to our ecclesial communities and to all the Italian people that, although the problems that must be addressed are many, the fundamental problem for the man of today continues to be the problem of God."
"No other human or social problem will truly be resolved if God does not return to the center of our lives," since he is the "source of hope that changes one's interior and does not disappoint" and, therefore, gives "consistency and vigor to our plans for good," the Pontiff stressed.
He emphasized to the Italian bishops that "in the framework of a healthy and well-understood laicism, it is necessary to resist every tendency that regards religion, and Christianity in particular, as only a private affair."
Instead, "the prospects that stem from our faith can make a fundamental contribution to clarify and solve the major social and moral problems of Italy and of Europe today," Benedict XVI affirmed.
"Strong and constant likewise must be our efforts" to defend "the dignity and tutelage of human life in all moments and conditions -- from conception and the embryonic phase, through situations of illness and suffering, until natural death," he added.
Along with his brothers in the episcopate, the Pope rejoiced over the opportunity the Church has in Italy to make use of the media in order to present its point of view and concerns "daily in the public debate," in a free and autonomous manner, "but with a sincere spirit of sharing."