Pope John Paul II, receiving bishops this morning from the Episcopal Conference of the Indian Ocean (CEDOI), invited "Christian people to live the just-begun Year of the Eucharist as an intense time of encounters with Christ," and stressed the need for well formed priests and laity, and the “harmonious development” of families.
The Pope emphasized that an "authentic spiritual communion" between the bishops is necessary due to "the diversity of human and religious situations of your region" and "also the great distances that separate your dioceses."
CEDOI is composed of one Islamic republic (the Comoros Islands), two Commonwealth republics (Seychelles and Mauritius), an overseas French department which is also an ultra-peripheral region of Europe (La Reunion) and a French territorial community (the island of Mayotte).
The Year of the Eucharist, said the Holy Father, is a time to "discover in this incomparable treasure that Jesus left us the joy and goodness of the loving presence of the Savior" and a time to "rediscover the meaning of Sunday and the need to make it holy, notably by regular participation in Sunday Mass."
The Pope called the formation of future priests "a challenge" for the Church, and encouraged seminary formators "in their precious service" of seeing that seminaries "become the place of a serious discernment of vocations and an authentic community formation to the ministerial priesthood."
He urged the bishops to re-evaluate the pastoral ministry for vocations and to make it “an essential concern in your dioceses."
He also urged them to care for the spiritual lives of their priests and to give them a solid foundation upon which to build, especially "through assiduous prayer life and the sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance. ... Be close to them through welcoming, listening, and shared friendship so they do not feel isolated or misunderstood."
The Holy Father said that lay people with "a solid religious formation" will communicate the Gospel message with their presence and work in society, "in the presence of other religions and also with the activity of sects," and encourage other disciples of Christ to give witness to their faith.
He added that "inculturation of the Gospel message is a task of great importance," and said that "for people to progress peacefully inter-religious dialogue is also a necessity."
In concluding the Pope said that "attention to families and to their harmonious development, is one of your pastoral priorities," especially because "societal evolutions today contribute to making family structures fragile."
He urged the bishops to insist on "the value of marriage and the family in God's plan," stating that families "are the privileged place for forming young people and for transmitting moral and spiritual values. The human and spiritual formation of young people is urgent in order to respond to the challenges of witnessing to the Gospel today," he said.