Friday, April 02, 2004

"Moment of Difficulty is a Time of Hope"

Pope's Address to the American Bishops

From the Vatican Information Service:

"Our meetings," the Pope said, "are taking place at a difficult time in the history of the Church in the United States. Many of you have already spoken to me of the pain caused by the sexual abuse scandal of the past two years and the urgent need for rebuilding confidence and promoting healing between Bishops, priests and the laity in your country. I am confident that the willingness which you have shown in acknowledging and addressing past mistakes and failures, while at the same time seeking to learn from them, will contribute greatly to this work of reconciliation and renewal."

He added that "the history of the Church demonstrates that there can be no effective reform without interior renewal" for individuals, groups and institutions. For a bishop, "the challenge of interior renewal must involve an integral understanding of his service as 'pastor gregis'." To be effective, the Bishop's "apostolic authority must be seen first and foremost as a religious witness to the Risen Lord, to the truth of the Gospel and to the mystery of salvation present and at work in the Church. ... The renewal of the Church is thus closely linked to the renewal of the episcopal office. The Bishop ... must be the first to conform his life to Christ in holiness and constant conversion."

"Dear Brothers," continued John Paul, "I wish to reaffirm my confidence in the Church in America, my appreciation of the deep faith of America's Catholics and my gratitude for their many contributions to American society and to the life of the Church throughout the world. Viewed with the eyes of faith, the present moment of difficulty is also a moment of hope, that hope which 'does not disappoint' (Rom 5:5), because it is rooted in the Holy Spirit, who constantly raises up new energies, callings and missions within the Body of Christ."

"The Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, celebrated in the wake of the epochal events of September 11, 2001, rightly noted that the Bishop is called to be a prophet, witness and servant of hope to the world ... because he makes that hope present through his pastoral ministry, centered as it is on the three 'munera' of sanctifying, teaching and governing. The exercise of this prophetic witness in contemporary American society has, as many of you have pointed out, been made increasingly difficult by the aftermath of the recent scandal and the outspoken hostility to the Gospel in certain sectors of public opinion, yet it cannot be evaded or delegated to others. Precisely because American society is confronted by a disturbing loss of the sense of the transcendent and the affirmation of a culture of the material and the ephemeral, it desperately needs such a witness of hope."

"For this reason," the Holy Father concluded, "I pray that our meetings will not only strengthen the hierarchical communion which unites the Successor of Peter with his Brother Bishops in the United States, but will bear abundant fruit for the growth of your own local Churches in unity and in missionary zeal for the spread of the Gospel."