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Thursday, May 6, 2004


VATICAN CITY, MAY 6, 2004 (VIS) - Twenty bishops from the ecclesiastical provinces of Detroit and Cincinnati in the United States, in Rome for their "ad limina" visit, were welcomed by Pope John Paul this morning who, in his talk to them, continued reflections begun with an earlier group of bishops on "the connection between the 'munus sanctificandi' and the spirituality of communion and mission."

   "Like her holiness, the Church's unity is an unfailing gift of God and a constant summons to an ever more perfect communion in faith, hope and love," he said. "The Church lives and carries out her saving mission as 'one body', which the Holy Spirit guides in the way of all truth."
  The Holy Father pointed out that "this close relationship between the Church's holiness and her unity is the basis for that spirituality of communion and mission which I am convinced we must foster at the dawn of this new millennium. ... The Bishop, as the icon of Christ the Good Shepherd, present in the midst of his holy people, has the primary duty of promoting and encouraging such a spirituality."
  "This spirituality of communion, which Bishops are called personally to exemplify, will naturally lead to 'a pastoral style which is ever more open to collaboration with all'. It demands of you, in the first place, an ever closer relationship with your priests, who through sacramental ordination are sharers with you in the one priesthood of Christ and in the one apostolic mission entrusted to his Church. Through Holy Orders, Bishops and priests alike have been entrusted with a ministerial priesthood which differs from the common priesthood of all the baptized 'in essence and not only in degree'."

  The Pope urged the bishops to relate to their priests "as a father and brother who loves them, listens to them, welcomes them, corrects them, supports them, seeks their cooperation and, as much as possible, is concerned for their human, spiritual, ministerial and financial well being'. ... Here I want to offer a word of acknowledgment and praise for the dedication and faithful work carried out by so many committed priests in the United States, especially those engaged in meeting the daily challenges and demands associated with parish ministry."

   "A spirituality of communion," affirmed John Paul II, "will naturally bear fruit in the development of a diocesan spirituality grounded in the particular gifts and charisms bestowed by the Holy Spirit for the building up of each local Church."

  The Pope exhorted bishops to make frequent visit to seminaries to ensure that they "form mature and balanced personalities, men capable of establishing sound human and pastoral relationships, knowledgeable in theology, solid in the spiritual life, and in love with the Church."

  "Proper formation in chastity and celibacy remains an essential component of seminary training," said John Paul II in closing remarks, "together with the presentation of a solid and correct theological understanding of the Church and the priesthood including a clear and precise identification of those positions which are not compatible with the Church's authoritative self-understanding as expressed by the Council and the documents of the post-conciliar renewal. This is a personal responsibility that falls to you as Pastors concerned for the future of your local Churches, and one that cannot be delegated. ... This calls for continuing personal formation aimed at deepening and harmonizing the human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral aspects of their priestly life."
AL/SANCTIFYING MISSION/USA                VIS 20040506 (580)

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