"It would be illusory to counter one, ignoring the other," he added.
Speaking to a meeting of the Italian bishops' conference, the Holy Father said that the spiritual crisis stems from "uncertainty about values, evident in the struggles of many adults to honor commitments."
The Pope commended the Italian bishops for choosing to make education their top priority for the next decade. Forming young people in the faith is critically needed, he said, in response to the spiritual crisis. Christian education, he said, should satisfy the "thirst that young people carry in their hearts is a question of meaning and genuine human relationships that will help them not to feel alone when facing the challenges of life."
In light of a prevailing climate of secularism and indifference to religious faith, the Pope conceded, any effort to provide true Catholic education will face obstacles. But Church leaders must not be deterred.
"Teaching has never been easy," the Pope remarked, "but we must not give up."
Pope Benedict also addressed the severe damage that has been done to the Church's credibility by the sex-abuse crisis.
He said that "the desire to promote a renewed season of evangelization does not hide the wounds which mark the ecclesial community by weakness and sin of some of its members."
The proper response to the scandal begins with a "humble and painful admission," the Pope said.
It must continue with "the urge to re-learn penance, accept purification, learn forgiveness on the one hand and on the other the need for justice."SIC: CC