Pope to U.S. Bishops: Encourage a spirituality of communion and mission.

This morning the Holy Father met with twenty U.S. bishops from the ecclesiastical provinces of Detroit and Cincinnati on their ‘ad limina’ visit, and continued his reflections on the connection betweent the ‘munus sanctificandi’ and the spirituality of communion and mission.

John Paul II proceeded to explain the link between the Church’s unity and holiness. "Like her holiness, the Church's unity is an unfailing gift of God and a constant summons to an ever more perfect communion in faith, hope and love," he said. "The Church lives and carries out her saving mission as 'one body', which the Holy Spirit guides in the way of all truth. This close relationship between the Church's holiness and her unity is the basis for that spirituality of communion and mission which I am convinced we must foster at the dawn of this new millennium.” The Pope underscored that “the Bishop, as the icon of Christ the Good Shepherd, present in the midst of his holy people, has the primary duty of promoting and encouraging such a spirituality."

He called on the bishops to personally exemplify this spirituality of communion, which will naturally lead to a “pastoral style which is ever more open to collaboration with all,” and demands a closer relationship with his priests. The bishops should relate to priests “as a father and brother who loves them, listens to them, welcomes them, corrects them, supports them, seeks their cooperation and, as much as possible, is concerned for their human, spiritual, ministerial and financial well-being,” said the Pope. He also acknowledged and praised the work of committed priests in the U.S “especially those engaged in meeting the daily challenges and demands associated with parish ministry.”

The Holy Father then said a few words on the bishop’s responsibility towards seminaries which they should visit frequently to ensure that they "form mature and balanced personalities, men capable of establishing sound human and pastoral relationships, knowledgeable in theology, solid in the spiritual life, and in love with the Church."

The Pope urged the bishops to ensure that seminaries provide a “continuing personal formation aimed at deepening and harmonizing the human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral aspects of their priestly life," in which formation in chastity and celibacy are essential and a correct theological understanding of the Church and priesthood. They must also understand clearly and precisely those positions that are “not compatible with the Church's authoritative self-understanding as expressed by the Council and the documents of the post-conciliar renewal.”

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