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Papal Address to Bishops of Minnesota, and North and South Dakota

"Need for an Evangelization of Culture in General"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 12, 2004 (Zenit) - Here is the address prepared by John Paul II when he received in audience today the U.S. bishops of the ecclesiastical provinces of Minnesota, and North and South Dakota. The prelates were on their five-yearly visit to Rome.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

1. In this, the last of my meetings with the pastors of the Church in the United States making their quinquennial visits "ad limina Apostolorum," I offer a warm greeting to you, the bishops of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

In the course of this year, I have engaged with you and your fellow bishops in a series of reflections on the threefold office of teaching, sanctifying and governing entrusted to the successors of the apostles. Through a consideration of the spiritual gifts and the apostolic mission received at episcopal ordination, whereby each bishop is sacramentally configured to Jesus Christ, the Head and chief Shepherd of his Church (cf. 1 Peter 5:4), we have sought to deepen our appreciation of the mystery of the Church, the mystical Body of Christ, enlivened by the Holy Spirit and constantly built up in unity through a rich diversity of gifts, ministries and works (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6; "Lumen Gentium," No. 7).

2. In these past eight months, I have been blessed with an opportunity to meet with each of the American bishops, and, through them, to hear the living voice of the Church throughout the United States. This has been a source of great consolation for me, and an invitation to give thanks to the Triune God for the rich harvest which his grace continues to bring forth in your local Churches. At the same time, I have shared the deep pain which you and your people have experienced in these last years, and I have witnessed your determination to deal fairly and forthrightly with the serious pastoral issues which have been raised as a result. In fulfillment of my ministry as the Successor of Peter, I have wished to confirm each and every one of you in the faith (cf. Luke 22:32) and to encourage you in your efforts to be "vigilant sentinels, courageous prophets, credible witnesses and faithful servants of Christ" for the People of God entrusted to your care (cf. "Pastores Gregis," No. 3).

From the beginning of our meetings, I have stressed that your duty of building up the Church in communion and mission must necessarily begin with your own spiritual renewal, and I have encouraged you to be the first to indicate, by your own witness of conversion to the word of God and obedience to the apostolic Tradition, the royal way that leads the pilgrim Church to Christ and the fullness of his Kingdom. In particular, I have called you to adopt a lifestyle marked by that evangelical poverty which represents "an indispensable condition for a fruitful episcopal ministry" ("Pastores Gregis," No. 20). As the Council itself stated, the Lord himself carried out the work of redemption in poverty and persecution, and his Church is called to follow along this same path (cf. "Lumen Gentium," No. 8).

3. Now, at the conclusion of this series of meetings, I leave two charges to you and your brother bishops. The first is a fraternal encouragement to persevere joyfully in the ministry entrusted to you, in obedience to the authentic teaching of the Church. Can we not see in the pain and scandal of recent years both a "sign of the times" (cf. Matthew 16:3) and a providential call to conversion and deeper fidelity to the demands of the Gospel? In the life of each believer and the life of the whole Church, a sincere examination of conscience and the recognition of failure is always accompanied by renewed confidence in the healing power of God's grace and a summons to press on to what lies ahead (Philippians 3:13). In her own way, the Church in the United States has been called to begin the new millennium by "starting afresh from Christ" (cf. "Novo Millennio Ineunte," No. 29) and by making the truth of the Gospel clearly the measure of her life and all her activity.

In this light, I once more praise your efforts to ensure that each individual and group in the Church understands the urgent need for a consistent, honest and faithful witness to the Catholic faith, and that each of the Church's institutions and apostolates expresses in every aspect of its life a clear Catholic identity. This is perhaps the most difficult and delicate challenge which you face in your role as teachers and shepherds of the Church in America today, yet it is one which cannot be renounced. In fulfilling your duty to "teach, exhort and correct with all authority" (cf. Titus 2:15), you are first called to be "united in mind and judgment" (1 Corinthians 1:10), working harmoniously in the proclamation of the Gospel.

4. The second charge is a heartfelt appeal to keep ...

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