John Paul II met with bishops from Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, this morning in his last encounter with U.S. bishops making their "ad limina" visit, and told them that the “pain and scandal of recent years [is] both 'a sign of the times' and a providential call to conversion and deeper fidelity to the demands of the Gospel.”
The Pope said that the ad limina visits over the past eight months have been both "a source of consolation" and a time to "share the deep pain which you and your people have experienced in these last years, and I have witnessed your determination to deal fairly and forthrightly with the serious pastoral issues which have been raised as a result." He underscored the bishops' duty of "building up the Church in communion and mission."
"I leave two charges to you and your brother bishops," said the Holy Father. “The first is a fraternal encouragement to persevere joyfully in the ministry entrusted to you, in obedience to the authentic teaching of the Church.”
The Pope said that “in her own way, the Church in the United States has been called to begin the new millennium by "starting afresh from Christ" and by making the truth of the Gospel clearly the measure of her life and all her activity.”
"In this light,” he continued, “I once more praise your efforts to ensure that each individual and group in the Church understands the urgent need for a consistent, honest and faithful witness to the Catholic faith, and that each of the Church's institutions and apostolates expresses in every aspect of its life a clear Catholic identity".
The Pope said that "the second charge is a heartfelt appeal to keep your gaze fixed on the great goal set before the whole Church at the dawn of this third Christian millennium: the proclamation of Jesus Christ as the Redeemer of humanity."
"'The Church in America must speak increasingly of Jesus Christ, the human face of God and the divine face of man', devoting the best of her efforts to a more compelling proclamation of the Gospel, the growth of holiness, and the more effective transmission of the treasure of the faith to the younger generation," said the Holy Father, citing "Ecclesia in America."
In conclusion the Pope noted that the “two urgent tasks” of the Church in the U.S. are "the need for an evangelization of culture in general" and "the need for Catholics to cooperate fruitfully with men and women of good will in building a culture of respect for life."
Read the Pope’s full speech to the US Bishops: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/document.php?n=49