VATICAN CITY, SEP 2, 2004 (VIS) - This morning at Castelgandolfo, the Holy Father received American bishops from the ecclesiastical provinces of Boston and Hartford as they conclude their quinquennial "ad limina" visit.
He began his talk by stating that "throughout these reflections on the exercise of the 'munus episcopale propheticum', I have more than once drawn attention to the importance of the evangelization of culture. A fundamental challenge in this area is surely that of bringing about a fruitful encounter between the Gospel and the new global culture which is rapidly taking shape as a result of unprecedented growth in communications and the expansion of a world economy. I am convinced that the Church in the United States can play a critical role in meeting this challenge, since this emerging reality is in many ways the fruit of contemporary Western, and particularly American, experiences, attitudes and ideals."
"The Church in the United States," he went on, "has long been committed to making her voice heard in public debate in the defense of fundamental human rights, the dignity of the person and the ethical requirements of a just and well-ordered society. In a pluralistic nation like your own, this has necessarily involved practical cooperation with men and women of various religious beliefs ... As the tragic events of 11 September 2001 have made clear, the building of a global culture of solidarity and respect for human dignity is one of the great moral tasks confronting humanity today."
John Paul II expressed his "personal gratitude for the traditional generosity of the faithful of the United States to the Church's mission 'ad gentes' through the training and sending forth of generations of missionaries and through the contributions of countless Catholics to the foreign missions. ... May the Church in your country discover the sources for a profound interior renewal through a revitalization of missionary zeal."
"More than once in the course of these meetings," he remarked, "I have told you of my admiration for the outstanding contribution which the Catholic community in the United States has made to the spread of the Gospel, the care of the poor, the sick and those in need, and the defense of fundamental human and Christian values."
The Pope then noted that "the Church in your country has been chastened by the events of the past two years, and much effort has rightly been expended on understanding and addressing the issues of sexual abuse which have cast a shadow on her life and ministry. As you continue to confront the significant spiritual and material challenges which your local Churches are experiencing in this regard, I ask you to encourage all the faithful - clergy, religious and lay - to persevere in their public witness of faith and hope."
"In a particular way I would ask you to be strongly supportive of your brother priests, many of whom have suffered deeply because of the much-publicized failings of some of the Church's ministers. ... Convey my personal gratitude for the generous and selfless service which mark the lives of so many American priests, as well as my deep appreciation of their daily efforts to be models of holiness and pastoral charity in the Christian communities entrusted to their care. ... In a word, tell your priests that I hold them in my heart!"
AC/AD LIMINA/USA VIS 20040902 (560)