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John Paul IIís Address to U.S. Bishops of Boston and Hartford

CASTEL GANDOLFO, SEPT. 3, 2004 (Catholic Online - Zenit) - Here is the address John Paul II delivered on Thursday to the U.S. bishops of Boston and Hartford on the occasion of their "ad liminaĒ visit, which every diocesan head must make every five years to report on the diocese.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

1. Through the gift of God we have become "ministers of the Gospel" and received the grace "to preach to the nations the unfathomable riches of Jesus Christ". Echoing these words of the Apostle Paul (cf. Eph 3:7-8), and in a spirit of gratitude for our common calling, I warmly welcome you, my brother Bishops of the ecclesiastical provinces of Boston and Hartford, on the occasion of your quinquennial visit to the tombs of the Apostles and the See of Peter. Taking up once again my series of reflections on the teaching office entrusted to Bishops within the communion of the People of God, I wish to consider some particular concerns facing the Church in the United States as she carries out her duty to proclaim the Gospel and to lead all people to the fullness of faith, freedom and salvation in Christ.

2. Throughout these reflections on the exercise of the munus episcopale propheticum I have more than once drawn attention to the importance of the evangelization of culture. A fundamental challenge in this area is surely that of bringing about a fruitful encounter between the Gospel and the new global culture which is rapidly taking shape as a result of unprecedented growth in communications and the expansion of a world economy. I am convinced that the Church in the United States can play a critical role in meeting this challenge, since this emerging reality is in many ways the fruit of contemporary Western, and particularly American, experiences, attitudes and ideals. The new evangelization calls for a clear discernment of the profound spiritual needs and aspirations of a culture which, for all its aspects of materialism and relativism, is nonetheless profoundly attracted to the primordially religious dimension of the human experience and is struggling to rediscover its spiritual roots.

For the Church in America, the evangelization of culture can thus offer a unique contribution to the Churchís mission ad gentes in our day. Through her preaching, her catechesis and her public witness, the Church in your country is challenged to develop a new kerygmatic style, one capable of appealing to the spiritual needs of contemporary men and women and of offering them a clear and convincing response grounded in the truth of the Gospel. Catholics of all ages must be helped to appreciate more fully the distinctiveness of the Christian message, its capacity to satisfy the deepest yearnings of the human heart in every age, and the beauty of its summons to a life completely centered on faith in the Triune God, obedience to his revealed word and loving configuration to Christís paschal mystery, in which we see disclosed the full measure of our humanity and our supernatural call to fulfillment in love (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 22).

3. The Church in the United States has long been committed to making her voice heard in public debate in the defense of fundamental human rights, the dignity of the person and the ethical requirements of a just and well-ordered society. In a pluralistic nation like your own, this has necessarily involved practical cooperation with men and women of various religious beliefs, and with all people of good will, in the service of the common good. I am deeply appreciative of your continuing efforts to promote ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue on every level of the Churchís life, not only as a means of overcoming misunderstandings between believers, but also for fostering a sense of common responsibility for the building of a future of peace. As the tragic events of 11 September 2001 have made clear, the building of a global culture of solidarity and respect for human dignity is one of the great moral tasks confronting humanity today. In the end, it is in the conversion of hearts and the spiritual renewal of humanity that the hope of a better tomorrow lies, and here the witness, example and cooperation of religious believers has a unique role to play.

4. I also wish to express my personal gratitude for the traditional generosity of the faithful of the United States to the Churchís mission ad gentes through the training and sending forth of generations of missionaries and through the contributions of countless Catholics to the foreign missions. I encourage you to make every effort to revive this powerful manifestation of solidarity with the universal Church. History bears witness that a sustained commitment to the mission ad gentes renews the whole Church, strengthens the faith of individuals and communities, reinforces their Christian identity, and gives rise to fresh enthusiasm for overcoming the challenges and ...

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