The Pontiff's remarks were released in a message to the second Latin-American Continental Congress for Vocations, which is being held in Cartago, Costa Rica from Jan. 31 to Feb. 5.
The first congress was organized by the Vatican and the Latin-American Confederation of Religious 17 years ago, while the current gathering is the work of bishops responsible for the pastoral care of vocations in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Pope Benedict opened his message by saying that the “great task” of evangelization requires an “ever increasing number of people to respond generously to the call of God and make a lifelong commitment to the cause of the Gospel.”
Because of this need, the Pope underscored that general pastoral care “must” include specific focus on vocations.
“Experience shows us that, where vocational pastoral care is well planned and constantly practiced, vocations are not lacking,” he said. “God is generous, and our own commitment to vocational pastoral care in all particular Churches must be equally generous.”
The Pontiff went on to say that vocations “are not the result of any human project, or of some efficient organizational strategy.” Rather, he explained, at “the deepest level, they are a gift of God.”
He added that pastoral planning regarding vocations needs to “recall the primacy of the life of the spirit.”
“The young generations must be given the chance to open their hearts to a greater reality: to Christ, the only One Who can give meaning and fullness to their lives,” he said.
“Yet at the same time, the strengthening of our spiritual life must lead us increasingly to identify ourselves with the will of God, and to offer a clearer and more transparent testimony of faith, hope and charity.”
"Faithful and joyful witness of one's own vocation has been and remains an excellent way to awaken in young people the desire to follow the footsteps of Christ,” the Pope stressed. “This must be accompanied by the courage to propose to them, with delicacy and respect, the possibility that God may be calling them too.”
He noted that often “the divine vocation opens its way through human words, or thanks to an environment in which people experience a living faith.”
“The world needs God,” he concluded, “and for this reason it will always need people who live for Him and announce Him to others.”