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Pope's Address to Bishops of New York State - 'Continue to Lead by Example'

10/11/2004 - 6:00 AM PST

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©Catholic Online 2004

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 11, 2004 (Zenit) - Here is the address John Paul II delivered Friday to the bishops of the ecclesiastical province comprising New York state, who are in Rome on their five-yearly visit.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

1. It gives me great joy today to welcome you, the Pastors of the Church in New York, in the context of the continuing series of visits "ad limina Apostolorum" by the American Bishops. I greet you in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ, through whom we give thanks always to our heavenly Father "whose power now at work in us can do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine" (Ephesians 3:20).

In previous meetings with your fellow Bishops from the United States, attention has been focused on the sacred duty to sanctify and teach the People of God. With the group that preceded you I began to reflect on the great responsibility of governing the faithful. Let us continue today to examine this same "munus regendi," which must always be carried out in the spirit of the exhortation found in the Rite of Ordination of a Bishop: "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" (Roman Pontifical, Rite of Ordination of a Bishop: Homily; cf. "Pastores Gregis," 43).

2. In your Particular Churches, you are called to act "in nomine Christi." Indeed, it is as vicars and ambassadors of Christ that you govern the portion of the flock entrusted to you (cf. "Lumen Gentium," 27). As shepherds, you "have the task of gathering together the family of the faithful and ... fostering charity and brotherly communion" ("Pastores Gregis," 5). Yet your immediate function as pastors 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, received through episcopal ordination and hierarchical communion (cf. "Lumen Gentium," 23). Moreover, while guaranteeing the communion of your Dioceses with the Church throughout the world, you also enable the universal Church to draw upon the life and the charisms of the local Church in a spiritual "exchange of gifts." Authentic "catholic" unity presupposes this mutual enrichment in the one Spirit.

Considered within a properly theological context, "power of governance" emerges as something more than mere "administration" or the exercise of organizational skills: it is a means for building up the Kingdom of God. I would encourage you, therefore, to continue to lead by example, in order to evangelize your flock for their own sanctification, thereby preparing them to share the Good News with others. Foster communion among them so as to equip them for the Church's mission. As you embrace lovingly the threefold "munera" entrusted to you, remember that your sacred responsibility to teach, sanctify and govern cannot be surrendered to anyone else: it is your personal vocation.

3. I am grateful for the deep affection which American Catholics have traditionally felt for the Successor of Peter, as well as their sensitivity and generosity to the needs of the Holy See and the universal Church. The Bishops of the United States have always shown a great love for the one in whom the Lord established "the lasting and visible source and foundation of the unity both of faith and of communion" ("Lumen Gentium," 18). Your abiding loyalty to the Roman Pontiff has led you to seek ways to strengthen the bond linking the Church in America with the Apostolic See. These devoted sentiments are a fruit of the hierarchical communion linking all members of the episcopal College with the Pope. At the same time, they constitute a great spiritual resource for the renewal of the Church in the United States. In encouraging your people to deepen their fidelity to the Magisterium and their union of mind and heart with the Successor of Peter, you offer them the inspirational leadership that is needed to carry them forward into the Third Millennium.

4. One of the fruits of the Second Vatican Council was a fresh understanding of episcopal collegiality. Among the ways in which this ecclesial vision is realized at the level of the local Church is through the activity of Episcopal Conferences. Bishops today can only fulfill their office fruitfully when they work harmoniously and closely with their fellow Bishops (cf. "Christus Dominus," 37, "Apostolos Suos," 15). For this reason, constant reflection is needed on the relationship between the Episcopal Conference and the individual Bishop.

My dear Brothers in the episcopate, 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 (cf. Acts 4:32; ...

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