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Papal Address to Polish Bishops

"The Chief Person Responsible for the Work of Evangelization"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 19, 2005 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Dec. 3 to a second group of Polish bishops who were making their five-yearly visit to the Holy See. They were accompanied by Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow.

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Dear Brothers in the Episcopal Ministry,

I offer my cordial greeting to you all. I am pleased to be able to offer hospitality to the second group of Polish bishops who have come here on their visit "ad limina Apostolorum."

The new evangelization

During his first pilgrimage to Poland, John Paul II said: "From the Cross of Nowa Huta began the new evangelization, the evangelization of the second millennium. This Church is a witness and confirmation of it. It arose from a living, aware faith and [the Church] must continue to serve the faith. The evangelization of the new millennium must refer to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. It must be, as that Council taught, a work shared by bishops, priests, religious and laity, by parents and young people" (cf. Homily, Nowa Huta, No. 3, June 9, 1979; L'Osservatore Romano, English edition [ORE], July 16, p. 11).

At the time, it was one of the first, if not the first, Interventions of my great predecessor on the theme of the new evangelization. He spoke of the second millennium, but there is no doubt that he was already thinking of the third.

Under his guidance, we entered this new millennium of Christianity, becoming aware of the constant timeliness of his exhortation to a new evangelization. With these brief words he set the aim: to revive a "living, aware and responsible" faith. He subsequently said that this must be the common work of bishops, priests, consecrated persons and lay people.

Today, I would like to reflect on this topic with you, dear brothers. We know well that the chief person responsible for the work of evangelization is the bishop, on whose shoulders rest the "tria munera": prophetic, priestly and pastoral.

In his book, "Rise, Let Us Be on Our Way!" and especially in the chapters: "The Shepherd," "I Know My Sheep" and "The Administration of Sacraments," John Paul II mapped the journey of the episcopal ministry with reference to his own experience so that it might bear blessed fruit.

We need not mention here the development of his reflections. We all have recourse to the patrimony he has bequeathed to us and can draw abundantly from his witness. May he be a model for us and may his sense of responsibility for the Church and for the believers entrusted to the bishop's care be an incentive to us.

Diocesan priests

The first collaborators of the bishop in the realization of his tasks are the priests; the bishop's concern should be addressed to them before anyone else.

John Paul lI wrote: "By his manner of life, a bishop demonstrates that the Christ 'as Model' lives on and still speaks to us today. One could say that a diocese reflects the manner of life of its bishop.

"His virtues -- chastity, a spirit of poverty and prayer, simplicity, sensitivity of conscience -- will, as it were, be written into the hearts of his priests. They, in their turn, will convey these values to the faithful entrusted to their care, and in this way young people can be led to make a generous response to Christ's call" ("Rise, Let Us Be on Our Way!", Paulines Publications Africa, 2004, p. 129).

The example the bishop sets is extremely important: He must not only have an irreproachable lifestyle but also loving concern, so that the Christian virtues of which John Paul II wrote may deeply penetrate the souls of the priests in his diocese.

For this reason, the bishop should pay special attention to the quality of seminarians' formation. It is necessary to keep in mind not only the intellectual training of priests-to-be for their future tasks, but also their spiritual and emotional formation.

At the Synod of 1991, the bishops expressed their desire for a larger number of spiritual directors in seminaries who would be well qualified to carry out the demanding task of forming spirits and of ascertaining the emotional readiness of seminarians to take on priestly tasks.

It is worth returning to this request. The document of the Congregation for Catholic Education on the admission of candidates to sacred orders has recently been published. I ask you, dear brothers, to put into practice all its directives.

It is important that the process of intellectual and spiritual formation should not end with the period at the seminary. Continuing formation for priests is vital. I know that great importance is attributed to it in the Polish dioceses. Courses, retreat days, spiritual exercises and other meetings are organized, during which priests ...

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