OFFICE OF THE BISHOP
Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,
As we begin our Lenten journey, we recall that moment in Scripture when Jesus was led into the desert by the Holy Spirit. Lent is that time when the same Holy Spirit also leads us through 40 days of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to draw closer to Christ, too.
On Ash Wednesday, the Catholic Bishops of Alaska issued, "Living in the Image and Likeness of God: Human Dignity and Divine Designs," a pastoral letter that explores what it means to be "made in the image and likeness of God." The letter provides an authentically Catholic lens through which to view some of the most prominent issues of our times. A copy is available on our diocesan website (www.dioceseoffairbanks.org), and printed copies will be available in parishes shortly.
There is nothing new in this pastoral letter; it simply reiterates the teachings given to us by Christ and His apostles. We simply wish to remind the faithful that God has given us the great gifts of religious freedom, sexuality, and marriage to help us experience the true joy and love He intends. When lived according to God's plan, these gifts not only help us live abundantly now, but will lead us to an eternally joyful communion with God and each other in heaven.
Unfortunately, many people today don't view the Church's teachings on these gifts as divine guidance from a loving Father. The rejection of Christ's core teachings is evident not only in the different forms of legislation that set public policy contrary to the truth, but in a growing social acceptance of sin and moral relativism, even among some within the Church.
As your shepherds, however, we have a sacred duty to be the voice of Christ, and promote the truth about the sacredness of human life, God's plan for sexuality, and the divine institution of marriage. We believe any societal solutions proposed for these issues must respect and promote God's design for human life and love. As people made "in the image and likeness of God," we are called to a challenging task: To draw closer to Christ by living out our faith while still being respectful to those who hold different beliefs. This will be difficult, of course, but "All things are possible with God" (Matthew 19:26).
We know your families wrestle with difficult, complex issues; we know being faithful to Christ may be difficult and even sacrificial at times. Because of that, we encourage dialogue within families and within parishes about these issues. We wish to journey with you amidst your struggles, so that we may all draw closer to Christ. Accompanying each other will open up the Gospel, and better enable us all to live the full and joyful lives God intends for each of us.
Please read the pastoral letter and share it with your families and friends. And as always, pray for me, as I keep you and your families in prayer this Lenten season.
Sincerely in Christ,
Chad W. Zielinski
Catholic Bishop of Northern Alaska