Castel Gandolfo (Fides Service) – On Friday 19 September Pope John Paul II received in a private audience a group of Bishops from English speaking mission countries attending a course of Aggiornamento organised by the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples. Presenting the participants to the Holy Father, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe said: “Holy Father I have the pleasure of presenting to Your Holiness one hundred and seventy English speaking Bishops ordained in the last five years. They come from all five continents representing altogether 44 countries. They have been following an up-dating course for two weeks, praying, meditating and reflecting on themes regarding the identity, life and ministry of Bishops in an authentic and fraternal spirit of Communion. Strengthened in faith renewed in hope they will return to their dioceses, prepared to give their lives for the flock entrusted to them. I ask you Holy Father, to bless these holy intentions. In the name of all I extend to Your Holiness best wishes for the twenty-fifth anniversary of your Pontificate.
The Pope thanked the Bishop for coming to see him and asked them to carry his greetings to their priests, religious, catechists and lay Catholics actively involved in proclaiming the Gospel in their local Churches. He said: “Your participation in this unique phase of formation, promoted by Propaganda Fide, constitutes a further sign of how much you desire to foster missionary activity throughout the earth. This is still an urgent apostolic undertaking in our day and you are called to be its courageous and tireless supporters in the midst of daily difficulties and trials”. The Pope recalled that the Redemptoris missio encyclical underlines the responsibility of all Bishops for the evangelisation of the world, both as members of the College of Bishops and heads of particular Churches. “For you also, dear and venerable brothers, the call of Jesus resounds forcefully: ‘Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation’ (Mk 16:15). Among your duties is that of transmitting the gift of faith and encouraging your communities to be evangelisers. There is room for everyone in the Lord’s vineyard. No one is so poor that he has nothing to give; no one is so rich that he has nothing to receive”.
John Paul II urged the Bishops to listen every day to hear the Lord’s call “Duc in altum!” as an “invitation to cast ‘spiritual nets’ into the sea of the world” and he encouraged them to “look with confidence to the future in every circumstance” because “The Lord – as he himself has assured us – remains always with us”. “Be holy!” the Pope exclaimed, because “holiness is the urgent pastoral need of our times”. He said Bishops must nourish themselves through intense and constant prayer and cultivate deep intimacy with Christ. “Only in this way will they become for priests and for the faithful, examples of fidelity and witnesses of an apostolic zeal enlightened by the Holy Spirit”.
No activity, no matter how important should distract them from the spiritual priority of interior life the Pope said, asking the Bishops to “accompany the unceasing proclamation of the faith with coherent and joyful witness to the Gospel”. Lastly the Pope advised the Bishops to follow the example of martyrs, confessors of the faith and courageous preachers of the Good News of their own local Churches: “Be Shepherds who, by their example more than by their words, honour the Gospel and inspire in those around them the desire to know it better and put it into practice”. SL (Fides Service 19/9/2003 EM lines 39 Words: 568)