Be steadfast, audacious, and vigilant in seeking new ways to teach faith, says Pope to Pacific bishops

.- Pope John Paul II addressed the bishops of the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific at Castelgandolfo on Saturday who had just completed their "ad limina" visit, and urged them to spare no effort in taking pastoral initiatives to strengthen the pastoral life of their dioceses, form priests, and spread the faith.

In his speech in English and French, the Holy Father reminded the prelates that Jesus Christ "continues to turn His loving attention to the peoples of Oceania, drawing them to a still deeper faith and life in Him. ... Even where the life of the Church is filled with signs of growth, no effort can be spared in taking effective pastoral initiatives to make the Lord better known and loved."

"The vibrant pastoral life of your dioceses, which your reports clearly describe, is an uplifting sign for all. The joyful liturgical celebrations, the keen participation of the young in the mission of the Church, the flowering of vocations, and the palpable presence of faith in the civic life of your nations, all attest to God's infinite goodness to his Church."

John Paul II referred to the concerns expressed by the bishops: "The encroachment of secularism, particularly in the form of consumerism, and the long reach of the most insidious aspects of the media, which convey a deformed outlook on life, the family, religion and morality, unsettle the very foundations of traditional cultural values.”

“In the face of such challenges, the peoples of Oceania ... look to you, with great expectation, to be steadfast ministers of truth and audacious witnesses to Christ.  They wish for you to be vigilant in seeking new ways to teach faith.”

The Pope indicated that "meeting with and listening to your closest collaborators - priests, religious and catechists - and direct contact with the poor, sick and elderly, will unite your people and enrich your teaching thanks to the concrete example that you offer of humble faith and service." 

After highlighting that the bishops are "the primary formators of priests," the Holy Father asked them to carefully supervise seminaries and to propose programs of permanent formation "so that students may build their priestly identity and personality." In addition, he praised priests who left their parish ministry to serve in seminaries and he urged those who have abandoned their ministry for other reasons to return to God "Who is rich in mercy."

After recalling the evangelizing work of men and women religious in the region, the Pope said that "apostolic fruitfulness, generosity in love of the poor, and the ability to inspire vocations among the young depend upon this priority in the spiritual life."

After speaking about catechesis, in which many lay people participate, the Holy Father concluded by saying: "As general educational standards among your communities rise, it is imperative that your people grow in their understanding of the faith and their ability to express its liberating truth.  In this regard, I am confident that you will give special consideration to the development of the chaplaincy at the University of the South Pacific where so many of your fine young men and women are being trained as future leaders of your communities."

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