.- Bishops from the province of New York were received by Pope John Paul II this morning on the completion of their 'ad limina' visit, who spoke to them of the bishop's "great responsibility of governing the faithful," saying that their office is one of service, not power. The Pope recalled the words spoken during Episcopal ordination to underscore his point: "The title of Bishop is one of service, not of honor, and therefore a Bishop should strive to benefit others rather than to lord it over them. Such is the precept of the Master."
"Your immediate function as pastors," he noted, "cannot be isolated from your wider responsibility for the universal Church; as members of the College of Bishops, 'cum et sub Petro', you in fact share in solicitude for the entire people of God."
Governing "is more than mere 'administration' or the exercise of organizational skills; it is a means of building up the Kingdom of God," leading by example, and evangelizing the faithful so that they in turn can evangelize, said the Pope.
He noted "the deep affection of American Catholics for the Successor of Peter, as well as their sensitivity to the needs of the Holy See and the Universal Church. ... These devoted sentiments are a fruit of the hierarchical communion linking all members of the episcopal College with the Pope" and they "constitute a great spiritual resource for the renewal of the Church in the United States."
The spoke of episcopal collegiality, specifically the activity of episcopal conferences saying that "Bishops today can only fulfill their office fruitfully when they work harmoniously and closely with their fellow Bishops. ... I pray that you will work diligently with one another, in that spirit of cooperation and unanimity of heart that should always characterize the community of disciples."
Quoting St. Paul, he said: ""I beg you, Brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to agree in what you say. Let there be no factions; rather, be united in mind and judgment." There must be "unity of praxis" with "underlying consensus," attained "through frank dialogue and informed discussions, based on sound theological and pastoral principles."
The Holy Father expressed his appreciation "for all that you have already accomplished together, particularly in your statements on life issues, education and peace." He invited them to "turn your attention to the many other pressing issues that directly affect the Church's mission and her spiritual integrity, for example the decline in Mass attendance and in recourse to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the threats to marriage and the religious needs of immigrants. Let your voice be clearly heard," exhorted the Pope.