In a message sent to the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) currently gathered in Assisi, Pope John Paul II stressed the importance of parishes in the life of the Church
“Your concern as pastors,” writes the Pope, “will be focused on this occasion on the topic of the parish, very opportunely presented in the program of your assembly as the ‘Church living in the midst of the homes of Her sons and daughters.’
“I must emphasize,” the Pontiff says, “that I share with you the conviction of the central and irreplaceable role of the parish to make participation in the Church possible, and in a certain sense easy and spontaneous for every person and family.”
The Holy Father highlighted the importance of studying “the best ways to preserve an increase this richness in the face of the great social and cultural changes of our age.”
“In order to accomplish these goals it will be particularly important for Italian parishes to maintain a ‘familial’ characteristic which distinguishes them and makes them, in a certain way, big ‘families of families’,” he added.
The Pope also said parishes must be “a warm and welcoming environment,” and be able to offer “a great contribution to the defense and promotion of that precious and invaluable reality, which unfortunately is continually threatened today, which is the family.”
“I am beside you,” the Pope concludes, “in the work that each one of you carries out in order to promote serenity and harmony in relationships between the diverse forces and political, social and institutional components.”
“I share your continual commitment to the defense of human life, the family founded on marriage, scholastic freedom and the development of employment and in helping the poorest sectors of the population.”