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AD LIMINA

AD LIMINA

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Adoremus, Society for the Renewal of the Sacred Liturgy

 ADDRESS OF JOHN PAUL II TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CHURCH IN COLORADO, WYOMING, UTAH, ARIZONA, NEW MEXICO AND WESTERN TEXAS ON THEIR "AD LIMINA" VISIT

Friday, June 4, 2004

Dear Brother Bishops,

1. "We also thank God that when you received the word of God you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God at work in you" (1 Th 2:13). With this passage from Saint Paul I warmly welcome you, the Bishops of the Church in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and western Texas on the occasion of your visit ad limina Apostolorum. Developing my reflection on the munus propheticum of the Bishop, I wish to reflect today on the pressing task you face of the evangelization of culture.

2. The Church, sure of her competence as the bearer of the Revelation of Jesus Christ (cf. Fides et Ratio, 6), has since Pentecost made her pilgrim way proclaiming: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is "the way, and the truth, and the life" (Jn 14:6). Her confidence is based on the knowledge that this message has its origin in God himself. In his goodness and wisdom God has entered our human history so that through his Son ­ the sum total of Revelation ­ we might be drawn into his own divine life (cf. Dei Verbum, 2). Thus the fundamental dynamic of the Church’s prophetic mission is to mediate the content of faith to different cultures enabling people to be transformed by the power of the Gospel which permeates their way of thinking, standards of judgement, and norms of behaviour (cf. Sapientia Christiana, Foreword I)

The observation of my predecessor, Pope Paul VI, that "the split between the Gospel and culture is undoubtedly the drama of our time" (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 20), is manifest today as a "crisis of meaning" (cf. Fides et Ratio, 81). Ambiguous moral positions, the distortion of reason by particular interest groups, and the absolutization of the subjective, are just some examples of a perspective of life which fails to seek truth itself and abandons the search for the ultimate goal and meaning of human existence (cf. ibid., 47). Against the darkness of this confusion the light of the truth which you openly proclaim (cf. 2 Cor 4:2) will shine forth as a diakonia of hope, guiding men and women to understand the mystery of their own life in a coherent manner (cf. ibid., 15).

3. As ministers of truth, with a courage imparted by the Holy Spirit, (cf. Pastores Gregis, 26), your preached and lived testimony to God’s extraordinary "yes" to humanity (cf. 2 Cor 1:20) appears as a sign of strength and trust in the Lord and begets new life in the Spirit. Some today view Christianity as weighed down by structures and failing to respond to people’s spiritual needs. Yet, far from being something merely institutional, the living center of your preaching of the Gospel is the encounter with our Lord himself. In fact, it is only by knowing, loving and imitating Christ that, with him, we can transform history by bringing Gospel values to bear in society and culture.

It is clear then that all your activities must be directed towards the proclamation of Christ. Indeed, your duty of personal integrity renders contradictory any separation between mission and life. Sent in Christ’s name as pastors for the care of particular portions of the People of God, you must grow with them as one mind and body in the Holy Spirit (cf. Pastores Gregis, 43). I urge you therefore to be close to your priests and people: imitate the Good Shepherd who knows his sheep and calls each by name. Inspired by the great Pastors who have gone before us, like Saint Charles Borromeo, your visiting and careful listening to your brother priests and the faithful, and your direct contact with the marginalized, will be quasi anima episcopalis regiminis. In this way you prolong your teaching through the concrete example of humble faith and service, encouraging in others the desire to live a life of authentic discipleship.

4. Central to the new impetus in Christian living, to which I have called the whole Church (cf. Novo Millennio Ineunte, 29), is the unequivocal prophetic witness on the part of consecrated men and women to the fullness of Christ’s truth. Stemming from the radical nature of their following of Christ, this prophetic witness of Religious is marked by their profound conviction of the primacy with which God and the truths of the Gospel shape Christian life and by their dedication to assisting the Christian community in uplifting all sectors of civic society with those truths.

In the wake of increasing secularism and fragmentation of knowledge (cf. Fides et Ratio, 81), "new forms of poverty" have arisen, particularly in cultures which enjoy material well-being, that reflect a "despair at the lack of meaning in life" (Instruction Starting Afresh From Christ: A Renewed Commitment to Consecrated Life in the Third Millennium, 35). Distrust of the human being’s great capacity for knowledge, the acceptance of "partial and provisional truths" (Fides et Ratio, 5), and the senseless pursuit of novelty, all point to the ever more difficult task of conveying to people ­ especially the young ­ an understanding of the very foundation and purpose of human life. Faced with these tragic flaws in social development, the wondrous array of charisms proper to each Religious Institute must be placed at the service of the complete knowledge and realization of the Gospel of Jesus Christ which alone "fully discloses humankind to itself and unfolds its noble calling" (Gaudium et Spes, 22). Particularly important in cultures undermined by secularism is the commitment by Religious to the apostolate of ‘intellectual charity’. Charity "in the service of intelligence" ­ through promotion of excellence in schools, commitment to scholarship, and articulation of the relationship between faith and culture ­ will "ensure that the fundamental principles, upon which a civil society worthy of the human person is built, are everywhere respected" (Instruction, op. cit., 38) including the political, juridical and educational arenas.

5. The rise of the prophetic mission of the laity is one of the great treasures unfolding in the Church of the third millennium. The Second Vatican Council rightly considered in detail the duty of the laity to "seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s will" (Lumen Gentium, 31). It is also true however that over the last forty or so years, while political attention to human subjectivity has focused on individual rights, in the public domain there has been a growing reluctance to acknowledge that all men and women receive their essential and common dignity from God and with it the capacity to move towards truth and goodness (cf. Centesimus Annus, 38). Detached from this vision of the fundamental unity and purpose of the whole human family, rights are at times reduced to self-centred demands: the growth of prostitution and pornography in the name of adult choice, the acceptance of abortion in the name of women’s rights, the approval of same sex unions in the name of homosexual rights.

In the face of such erroneous yet pervasive thinking you must do everything possible to encourage the laity in their "special responsibility" for "evangelizing culture … and promoting Christian values in society and public life" (Pastores Gregis, 51). False secularistic forms of "humanism" which exalt the individual in such a manner that they become a veritable idolatry (cf. Christifideles Laici, 5) can be countered only by the rediscovery of the genuine inviolable dignity of every person. This sublime dignity is manifested in all its radiance when the person’s origin and destiny are considered – created by God and redeemed by Christ, we are all called to be "children in the Son" (cf. ibid., 37). So, again I say to the people of the United Sates, it is the Paschal Mystery of Christ that is the only sure point of reference for all of humanity on its pilgrimage in search of authentic unity and true peace! (cf. Ecclesia in America, 70).

6. Dear Brothers, with affection and fraternal gratitude I offer these reflections to you and encourage you in the sharing of the fruits of the charism of truth which the Spirit has bestowed upon you. United in your proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ and guided by the example of the Saints, go forward in hope! Invoking upon you the intercession of Mary, "Star of the New Evangelization", I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and the priests, Religious, and lay faithful of your dioceses.

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The Editors

Ad Limina

Ad Limina

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Adoremus, Society for the Renewal of the Sacred Liturgy

ADDRESS OF JOHN PAUL II TO THE BISHOPS OF THE ECCLESIASTICAL PROVINCES OF BOSTON AND HARTFORD (U.S.A.) ON THEIR "AD LIMINA" VISIT

Thursday, September 2, 2004

Dear Brother Bishops,

1. Through the gift of God we have become "ministers of the Gospel" and received the grace "to preach to the nations the unfathomable riches of Jesus Christ". Echoing these words of the Apostle Paul (cf. Eph 3:7-8), and in a spirit of gratitude for our common calling, I warmly welcome you, my brother Bishops of the ecclesiastical provinces of Boston and Hartford, on the occasion of your quinquennial visit to the tombs of the Apostles and the See of Peter. Taking up once again my series of reflections on the teaching office entrusted to Bishops within the communion of the People of God, I wish to consider some particular concerns facing the Church in the United States as she carries out her duty to proclaim the Gospel and to lead all people to the fullness of faith, freedom and salvation in Christ.

2. 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 new evangelization calls for a clear discernment of the profound spiritual needs and aspirations of a culture which, for all its aspects of materialism and relativism, is nonetheless profoundly attracted to the primordially religious dimension of the human experience and is struggling to rediscover its spiritual roots.

For the Church in America, the evangelization of culture can thus offer a unique contribution to the Church’s mission ad gentes in our day. Through her preaching, her catechesis and her public witness, the Church in your country is challenged to develop a new kerygmatic style, one capable of appealing to the spiritual needs of contemporary men and women and of offering them a clear and convincing response grounded in the truth of the Gospel. Catholics of all ages must be helped to appreciate more fully the distinctiveness of the Christian message, its capacity to satisfy the deepest yearnings of the human heart in every age, and the beauty of its summons to a life completely centered on faith in the Triune God, obedience to his revealed word and loving configuration to Christ’s paschal mystery, in which we see disclosed the full measure of our humanity and our supernatural call to fulfillment in love (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 22).

3. The Church in the United States 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, and with all people of good will, in the service of the common good. I am deeply appreciative of your continuing efforts to promote ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue on every level of the Church’s life, not only as a means of overcoming misunderstandings between believers, but also for fostering a sense of common responsibility for the building of a future of peace. 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. In the end, it is in the conversion of hearts and the spiritual renewal of humanity that the hope of a better tomorrow lies, and here the witness, example and cooperation of religious believers has a unique role to play.

4. I also wish to express my 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. I encourage you to make every effort to revive this powerful manifestation of solidarity with the universal Church. History bears witness that a sustained commitment to the mission ad gentes renews the whole Church, strengthens the faith of individuals and communities, reinforces their Christian identity, and gives rise to fresh enthusiasm for overcoming the challenges and difficulties of the moment (cf. Redemptoris Missio, 2). May the Church in your country discover the sources for a profound interior renewal through a revitalization of missionary zeal, above all by promoting vocations to missionary Institutes and proposing, especially to young people, the lofty ideal of a life completely devoted to the Gospel.

5. More than once in the course of these meetings 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. Today I wish to encourage you, and through you, all the Catholics of America, to continue to bear faithful testimony to the truth of Christ and the power of his grace to inspire wisdom, reconcile differences, heal wounds and point to a future of hope. 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, so that Christ’s light, which can never be dimmed (cf. Jn 1:5), will continue to shine forth in and through the Church’s entire life and ministry.

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. I would ask you also to 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 very real way the renewal of the Church is linked to the renewal of the priesthood (cf. Optatam Totius, 1). For this reason I ask you to make every effort to be present as a father and a brother in the midst of your priests, to show heartfelt gratitude for their ministry, to join them frequently in prayer and to encourage them in fidelity to their noble vocation as men completely consecrated to the service of the Lord and his Church. In a word, tell your priests that I hold them in my heart!

6. At the conclusion of these reflections on our responsibility for the Church’s prophetic witness before the world, I once more express my conviction, born of faith, that God is even now preparing a great springtime for the Gospel (cf. Redemptoris Missio, 86), and that this calls all of us to "open the doors to Christ" in every aspect of our life and activity. As I suggested in the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, ours is the wonderful yet demanding responsibility of reflecting Christ, the light of the world. Indeed, "this is a daunting task if we consider our human weakness, which so often renders us opaque and full of shadows. But it is a task we can accomplish if we remain ever turned to the light of Christ and open to the grace which makes us a new creation" (op. cit., 54).

Dear Brother Bishops, as I set this challenge before you, I assure you once more of my confidence and my fraternal affection. Entrusting you and the clergy, religious, and lay faithful of your particular Churches to the loving intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of strength and peace in the Lord.

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The Editors