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Pope's Address to Bishops of Ecclesiastical Provinces of Detroit and Cincinnati

5/7/2004 - 6:00 AM PST

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"Spirituality of Communion and Mission"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 7, 2004 - Here is the address John Paul II delivered to the U.S. bishops of the ecclesiastical provinces of Detroit and Cincinnati at the conclusion of their five-yearly visit to Rome.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

1. It is with great joy that I greet you, the Bishops of the ecclesiastical provinces of Detroit and Cincinnati, on the occasion of your visit "ad limina Apostolorum." Through you I greet the priests, deacons, religious and lay faithful of your Dioceses: may the grace and peace of the Risen Lord be with all of you, "consecrated in Christ Jesus and called to be a holy people" (1 Corinthians 1:2)!

In my meetings with the Bishops of the United States this year I have sought to offer some personal reflections on the episcopal ministry of sanctifying, teaching and governing the People of God. In the present reflection I wish to continue our consideration of the "munus sanctificandi" in the light of the Bishop's responsibility for building up the communion of all the baptized in holiness, fidelity to the Gospel and zeal for the spread of God's Kingdom.

2. Like her holiness, the Church's unity is an unfailing gift of God and a constant summons to an ever more perfect communion in faith, hope and love. "God himself is communion, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he calls all people to share in that same Trinitarian communion" ("Ecclesia in America," 33). Through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Risen Christ, the Church has been established as "a people brought into unity from the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit" ("Lumen Gentium," 4).

As the sign and sacrament of that unity which is the calling and destiny of the whole human family, the Church lives and carries out her saving mission as "one body" (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:12ff.), which the Holy Spirit guides in the way of all truth, brings together in communion and in the works of ministry, directs through the variety of hierarchical and charismatic gifts, and adorns with his fruits (cf. "Lumen Gentium," 4). This mystery of unity in diversity is especially evident in the Bishop's celebration of the Eucharist, when he is surrounded by the presbyterate, ministers, religious and the whole People of God (cf. "Sacrosanctum Concilium," 41); in the Eucharist, that "holy communion" which is the very soul of the Church is both expressed and brought about (cf. "Lumen Gentium," 3).

This close relationship between the Church's holiness and her unity is the basis for that spirituality of communion and mission which I am convinced we must foster at the dawn of this new millennium, "if we wish to be faithful to God's plan and respond to the world's deepest yearnings" ("Novo Millennio Ineunte," 43). The Bishop, as the icon of Christ the Good Shepherd, present in the midst of his holy people, has the primary duty of promoting and encouraging such a spirituality (cf. "Pastores Gregis," 22). The Second Vatican Council, while insisting that the building up of Christ's body takes place in a rich diversity of members, functions and gifts, also noted that "among these gifts, the primacy belongs to the grace of the apostles" ("Lumen Gentium," 7), whose successors are called to discern and coordinate the charisms and ministries given for the building up of the Church in that work of sanctifying humanity and giving glory to God which is the goal of all her life and activity (cf. "Sacrosanctum Concilium," 10).

3. This spirituality of communion, which Bishops are called personally to exemplify, will naturally lead to "a pastoral style which is ever more open to collaboration with all" ("Pastores Gregis," 44). It demands of you, in the first place, an ever closer relationship with your priests, who through sacramental ordination are sharers with you in the one priesthood of Christ and in the one apostolic mission entrusted to his Church (cf. "Christus Dominus," 11). Through Holy Orders, Bishops and priests alike have been entrusted with a ministerial priesthood which differs from the common priesthood of all the baptized "in essence and not only in degree" ("Lumen Gentium," 10). At the same time, within the communion of the Body of Christ you and your priests are called to cooperate in enabling the whole People of God to carry out the royal priesthood conferred by Baptism.

Precisely because the members of his presbyterate are his closest cooperators in the ordained ministry, each Bishop should constantly strive to relate to them "as a father and brother who loves them, listens to them, welcomes them, corrects them, supports them, seeks their cooperation and, as much as possible, is concerned for their human, spiritual, ministerial and financial well-being" ("Pastores Gregis," 47). Just as the Apostle Paul recommended Timothy to the ...

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