Speaking to a group of French bishops, Pope John Paul II said this Friday that bishops must take care of their own spiritual life to be credible witnesses of the Gospel.

Speaking to the bishops from the French ecclesiastical provinces of Cambrai and Reims, who have completed their “ad limina” visit, the Pontiff spoke about the Church and the episcopal mission, with reference to the post-synodal apostolic exhortation “Pastores gregis”.

John Paul II emphasized the importance of taking care of their personal spiritual life, “enriching your ministry,” he said, “with a deep relationship with Christ, through meditation, supplemented by Scripture and an intense sacramental life.” 

“In this way –he added, - you will be able to communicate to the faithful the desire to live in intimate union with God, so that they build up their faith and, together, you are able to propose the faith to your citizens, following the spirit of the documents that you have written about proclaiming the Gospel.”

The Pope also said that in the life and mission of bishops, “fraternal collaboration and attention to communion are essential in order to demonstrate the unity of the whole ecclesiastical Body.” “Today –he continued- it is more important than ever to help the faithful to discover the meaning and grandeur of the mystery of Christ’s Church.”

“Without serious and deep knowledge of the mystery of the Church, which always leads to Christ, it is clear that the meaning of ordained ministries and, specifically, the structure of the Church cannot be understood,” the Pontiff also said.

The Pope stressed that bishops “are continually called to bear clear witness to the apostolic communion among them and with the entire episcopal assembly surrounding the Successor of Peter.”  “In their actions, declarations, decisions, every bishop commits to the entire episcopal body and to the Church.”

The Holy Father underscored that “communion is not a contradiction to legitimate diversity which permits every diocesan Church to have its own personality in function of the pastors and communities that compose it.”

 “The apostolic mission of the bishop is, in the first place, to proclaim the Gospel,” said the Pope, and he concluded: “No matter how small or fragile a group of people is or how few priests there are, it becomes necessary that the bishop take care of the flock entrusted to him and that he is not absent for long periods of time from his diocese, that he visit the different communities, listen to them and encourage them.”

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