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Pope's Address to Bishops of Episcopal Conference of the Pacific

"Worries About the Winds of Change"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 20, 2004 (Zenit) - Here is the address John Paul II delivered Saturday to the bishops of the episcopal conference of the Pacific, whom he received during their five-yearly visit to Rome.

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[In English]

Dear Brother Bishops,

1. In the grace and peace of our Lord I cordially welcome you, the members of the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific, and make my own the greeting of St. Paul: "I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world" (Romans 1:8). I am grateful to Archbishop Apuron for his good wishes and kind sentiments offered on your behalf. I warmly reciprocate them and assure you and those entrusted to your care of my prayers. Your visit "ad Limina Apostolorum" expresses the profound communion of love and truth which unites the scattered dioceses of the Pacific with the Successor of Peter and his collaborators in the service of the universal Church. Traveling great distances to "see Peter" (cf. Galatians 1:18) you confirm your "unity in the same faith, hope and charity, and more and more recognize and treasure that immense heritage of spiritual and moral wealth that the whole Church, joined with the Bishop of Rome, has spread throughout the world" ("Pastor Bonus," Appendix I, 3).

2. Jesus Christ continues to turn his loving attention to the peoples of Oceania, drawing them to a still deeper faith and life in him. As bishops you respond to his call by asking: how can the Church be an even more effective instrument of Christ? (cf. "Ecclesia in Oceania," No. 4). Even where the life of the Church is filled with signs of growth, no effort can be spared in taking effective pastoral initiatives to make the Lord better known and loved. Indeed, families and communities, continuing to search for meaning in their lives, look to see "faith in action." This demands that you, as teachers of the faith and heralds of the Word (cf. "Pastores Gregis," No. 26), preach with clarity and precision how "faith in fact has the force to shape culture itself by penetrating it to its very core" ("Ecclesia in Oceania," No. 20). Anchored in the Christian tradition, and alert to the signs of contemporary cultural shifts, your episcopal ministry will thus be a sign of hope and direction for all.

3. Dear brothers, the vibrant pastoral life of your dioceses, which your reports clearly describe, is an uplifting sign for all. The joyful liturgical celebrations, the keen participation of the young in the mission of the Church, the flowering of vocations, and the palpable presence of faith in the civic life of your nations, all attest to God's infinite goodness to his Church. Yet, with the prudence of a father's concern for his family, you have also expressed worries about the winds of change extending to your shores. The encroachment of secularism, particularly in the form of consumerism, and the long reach of the most insidious aspects of the media, which convey a deformed outlook on life, the family, religion and morality, unsettle the very foundations of traditional cultural values.

In the face of such challenges, the peoples of Oceania are growing in their understanding of the need to renew their faith and find a more abundant life in Christ. In this quest they look to you, with great expectation, to be steadfast ministers of truth and audacious witnesses to Christ. They wish for you to be vigilant in seeking new ways to teach faith in such a way that they will be strengthened by the power of the Gospel which must permeate their way of thinking, standards of judgment, and norms of behavior (cf. "Sapientia Christiana," Foreword). In this context, it is your preached and lived testimony to God's extraordinary "yes" to humanity (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:20) which will inspire your peoples to reject the negative aspects of new forms of colonization and to embrace all that begets new life in the Spirit!

[In French]

4. As an inexhaustible gift of God, the unity of the Church shines on the totality of her members as an urgent appeal to grow in a communion of faith, hope and charity. In the midst of cultural changes, which are often factors of division, the great challenge today consists to make of the Church "the house and school of communion" ("Novo Millennio Ineunte," No. 43). That requires of the bishop, sent in the name of Christ to take care of a specific portion of the People of God, to help his people to become one in the Holy Spirit (cf. "Pastores Gregis," No. 43). Therefore, I encourage you to imitate the Good Shepherd who knows his sheep and who calls each one by name. Meetings with and attentive listening to your closest collaborators -- priests, men and women religious, and catechists -- as well as direct contacts with the poor, the sick and the elderly, will unify your people and ...

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