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Thursday, December 18, 2003


VATICAN CITY, DEC 18, 2003 (VIS) - The Holy Father this morning welcomed the bishops and diocesan administrators from the ecclesiastical province of Marseille as well as the archbishop of Monaco, who have just concluded their 'ad limina' visit. He focussed his talk on 'the renewal of the spiritual life of pastors, the faithful and entire communities,' saying it is from this 'that will spring forth a new pastoral and missionary elan.'

He said that 'in this perspective persons committed to the consecrated life have a primordial role to play. Consecrated life in all of its forms, old and new, is a gift from God to the Church.' John Paul II said he wanted 'to repeat with conviction and strength the need for consecrated life in the Church and the world. Indeed, a diocese without communities of consecrated life 'would be deprived of many spiritual gifts, of places reserved for seeking God, of apostolic activities and specific pastoral methods.'

The Pope then turned to the crisis being undergone in France by communities of consecrated life, citing the bishops' quinquennial reports on this subject. He said that this crisis 'is marked in a notable way in the apostolic congregations, by the progressive and constant decrease in the number of members of the diverse institutes, ' and by the weak numbers of candidates for the novitiates.' He noted that 'members are ageing, with the inevitable consequences on the life of the institutes, on their witness, on their government and even on the choices linked to their missions and to where their resources are destined." Now, more than ever, he said, 'leaders of institutes must be attentive to the permanent formation of their members, especially on the theological and spiritual levels.'

The Holy Father added that he was delighted 'to see that congregations are taking care to propose their charisms to the laity of all ages and circumstances and to include them in their mission.'

He lauded the work done by consecrated persons 'in France and in the poorest of countries, especially in Africa' where they see to 'excluded people, illiterate children, street youths, people in precarious situations or poverty, those sick with AIDS, migrants and other displaced peoples.' He urged leaders of congregations 'to never neglect or desert too quickly these essential places for transmitting Gospel values.'

John Paul II underscored many times in his talk the need to devote attention to young people, especially in their early and formative years, and with particular regard for those who are considering a vocation to the religious life. Young people, he said 'need audacious witnesses who call on them to live the Gospel and to place themselves generously at its service.'

The Pope also underlined the need for a fruitful dialogue between institutes and congregations at both the national and diocesan levels. He added that, of all the activities of these communities, he wished to highlight 'the eminent role they play in intellectual research in your country. Religious in France have often been beacons in this domain.'

'In your dioceses,' he went on, 'consecrated life has many faces, with old and new communities existing side by side. ' New communities are a fortune for the Church. Helped by their bishops, ' they still need to mature, to become rooted and sometimes to be organized according to canonical rules.' He said that many times the older congregations can learn much from the enthusiasm and the ardor of new communities. The latter, he remarked, 'have a courage that sometimes is missing in older institutes.'
The Holy Father noted that many of the bishops 'underscored the important role that communities of contemplative life play in your dioceses.' They add, he stated, to the 'apostolic fruitfulness of the parishes, movements and ministries and are for many young people and adults reference points and spaces in which they can find solid bases for building and reaffirming their human and spiritual life.' He said that in particular 'monasteries play a precious role,' especially for those priests, religious and laity who spend time there on retreats.

AL;CONSECRATED LIFE;...;FRANCE ;VIS;20031218;Word: 680;

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