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Tuesday, May 20, 2003


VATICAN CITY, MAY 20, 2003 (VIS) - This morning in the Paul VI the Holy Father received participants in the 51st general assembly of the Italian Episcopal Conference whose central theme this year is Christian initiation.

John Paul II said that the choice of this theme "is very appropriate because Christian formation and the transmission of the faith to new generations have great importance, made even more significant by the present social and cultural context in which many factors make the commitment to be authentic disciples of the Lord more difficult, while the rapid rate and degree of change increase the distance and sometimes even the inability to communicate among generations."

"In addition," he continued, "it is very important to begin the Christian education of children as soon as possible in such a way that it may be vitally incorporated in their first years: families must be conscious of this noble mission and must help to carry it out." Moreover, priests, catechists and those who give formation must speak personally with children, adolescents and young people "without hiding the grandeur of God's call and the exigent commitment of one's response."

The Holy Father then referred to other themes that will be discussed at the assembly such as "school system reform in Italy and new perspectives that are opening up for the teaching of the Catholic religion." Later, he urged "religion teachers and Catholic schools, who continue to hope that their role and educational contribution be properly recognized, to participate fully in the educational and formative function of schools in a context of effective equality."

The Pope expressed his "special closeness" to all the people and families who are unemployed. In addition to improvements, he concluded, "there are still places, especially in certain southern regions, in which young people, women and sometimes even fathers of families are without work, which causes grave damage to them as well as to the country. Italy needs more faith and initiatives in order to offer better prospectives and more encouragement to everyone."


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