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Monday, September 13, 2004


VATICAN CITY, SEP 11, 2004 (VIS) - Thirty-three bishops from the ecclesiastical region of Pennsylvania and New Jersey in the United States, including eight from Eastern Churches, were welcomed by the Pope today at Castelgandolfo on the occasion of  their quinquennial visit to the Vatican.

  "Cardinal Justin Rigali," said the Holy Father,  naming the archbishop of Philadelphia, "has mentioned that today marks the third anniversary of the terrorist attacks in the United States. I assure you of my closeness to the American people and I join you in praying for an end to the scourge of terrorism and the growth of the civilization of love."
  "Our thoughts today," he continued, "are centered on the bishop's exercise of sacred power, which must always be rooted in the moral authority of a life shaped by his sharing in Christ's consecration and mission. This demands of us a pastoral style inspired by the example of Christ, the Good Shepherd, and aimed at fostering holiness, communion and mission in the ecclesial community."

   "As the Church's constant Tradition attests, this apostolic authority is a form of service to the Body of Christ," the Pope noted. "History amply demonstrates that the firm and sage exercise of this apostolic authority, particularly in moments of crisis, has enabled the Church to preserve her integrity, independence and fidelity to the Gospel in the face of threats from within and without."

  He affirmed that "the bishop is above all a witness, a teacher and model of holiness, as well as a prudent administrator of the Church's goods. The sacred power which he legitimately exercises should be rooted in the moral authority of a life completely shaped by his sacramental sharing in Christ's consecration and mission." He added that "bishops need to be esteemed as successors of the Apostles not only in authority and sacred power, but above all by their apostolic life and witness."

  "In our meetings," said John Paul II, "many of you have expressed your concern about the crisis of confidence in the Church's leadership provoked by the recent sexual abuse scandals, the general call for accountability in the Church's governance on every level and the relations between bishops, clergy and the lay faithful. I am convinced that today, as at every critical moment in her history, the Church will find the resources for an authentic self-renewal in the wisdom, vision and zeal of Bishops outstanding for their holiness."

  He spoke of "the need today for each bishop to develop 'a pastoral style which is ever more open to collaboration with all'." He added that "a sound ecclesiology of communion ... should not be misunderstood as a concession to a secular 'democratic' model of governance, but as an intrinsic requirement of the exercise of episcopal authority and a necessary means of strengthening that authority."

  "Every act of ecclesiastical governance, consequently, must be aimed at fostering communion and mission. ...The three 'munera' of teaching, sanctifying and ruling are clearly inseparable and interpenetrating. ... Experience shows that when priority is mainly given to outward stability, the impetus to personal conversion, ecclesial renewal and missionary zeal can be lost and a false sense of security can ensue. The painful period of self-examination provoked by the events of the past two years will bear spiritual fruit only if it leads the whole Catholic community in America to a deeper understanding of the Church's authentic nature and mission, and a more intense commitment to making the Church in your country reflect, in every aspect of her life, the light of Christ's grace and truth."
AL/...USA                                VIS 20040913 (600)

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