ADDRESS OF JOHN PAUL II
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
1. I am happy to receive you this morning during your ad limina visit which allows you to renew the bonds of communion of your particular Churches with the Bishop of Rome. I greet you all with great affection, and ask you to express my esteem and closeness to the beloved Salvadoran people whom you serve with love, generosity and dedication, mindful of the Apostle Paul's witness in his service to the community of Corinth: "I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls" (II Cor 12,15).
I am grateful for the sentiments Archbishop Fernando Sáenz of San Salvador, President of the Bishops' Conference, expressed to renew your support. His words show the spirit in which you carry out your pastoral ministry. For my part, I respond by expressing my appreciation of the work you are achieving in your dioceses, with the help of God and the collaboration of so many servants of the Gospel.
2. In the reports you gave me and at the meetings I have had with each one of you, I saw the reconstruction which the Church has launched in your nation. At the end of my second Pastoral Visit, I told you as I departed: "I leave with great confidence in the future of this beloved land: live in the light of faith, with the strength of hope and the generosity of fraternal love" (Farewell Address at San Salvador Airport, 8 February 1996, n. 5). I had in mind the aspirations and hopes of this beloved people that I was able to get to know and appreciate more deeply. It is a people who suffered the difficult years of a fratricidal war from which, fortunately it had emerged and was beginning to undertake its own development with determination in order to build a serene future of solidarity for its children.
Continue to guide your faithful as ministers of reconciliation, so that the flock entrusted to you can advance on paths of concord and sincere love without exception! You know well that the country's future must be built on peace, for justice to flourish (cf. Jas 3,18). If you take this path, all the effort put into the signing of the Peace Agreements in 1992 which ended the terrible years of civil war, will have proved beneficial. Help to build a society that fosters harmony and respect for the person and his fundamental rights. Keeping in mind the common good, you must encourage everyone, starting with those who have political, administrative and juridical responsibility, to promote a higher standard of living, work and housing.
The Salvadoreans' capacity for hard work, their moral strength and spirit of sacrifice in the face of adversity are well known. They showed these qualities on the occasion of Hurricane Mitch and the two earthquakes, one month apart, which struck them at the beginning of this year. On those occasions, I immediately expressed my closeness, appealing for solidarity and help for the victims of those appalling natural disasters that rendered the very existence of many Salvadoreans precarious, and damaged so many buildings.
Although external aid is certainly necessary, given the magnitude of the phenomenon, it should be recalled that the Salvadoreans, with the rich qualities that distinguish them, must themselves play the lead and be the principal architects of the country's reconstruction. Through their own work and commitment, they must overcome this situation that is so difficult and aggravated by the extreme poverty of many, unemployment and the lack of decent housing. It is only right to highlight Caritas' work which seeks to answer these needs.
In our day, when the modern media constantly bombard us with detailed reports of the latest news, it is necessary to give priority to the Word of God and its proclamation. When the believer welcomes Jesus Christ and his word and puts it into practice, it is then that truth attains its fullness, as Peter confesses before Jesus: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (Jn 6,68). Thus it is crucially important that the ministries of preaching, catechesis and teaching continue to flourish, so that all the faithful may "have life and have it abundantly" (Jn 10,10).
The preaching of the Word acquires special prominence when it is proclaimed during the liturgy, for Christ "is present in his word since it is he himself who speaks when the Holy Scriptures are read in the church" (Sacrosanctum
Concilium, n. 7). However, since the Church's action is not exhausted in the liturgy, you must persevere in proclaiming the Word and use every means to ensure that the message of salvation reaches believers and non-believers. The media today must also be used for evangelization and catechesis, so as to make the most of their enormous potential, the better to fulfil Jesus' mandate to preach the Good News to the whole creation (cf. Mk 16,15). I urge you to implement the means at your disposal and to put them at the service of the spread of the Gospel. Through them the message of salvation can reach everyone.
Priests must be available to all. They must know how to listen, how to guide the growth in the faith of their brothers and sisters and how to be a source of comfort for the troubled or afflicted, since at every instant they witness to the values of the Kingdom. In brief, they must be and present themselves as ministers of Jesus Christ and of his grace.
The close bond that unites the priest with his Bishop requires that you always be close and attentive to each one of them, so that he may look to you as a true father and teacher. Relying on the charism of your episcopal ministry, encourage each of them to persevere on the path of genuine priestly holiness and pastoral charity. Give them the best means so that they can continue their formation, develop those virtues necessary for their state and face courageously the problems they may meet.
In the life of the Church in your nation, Eucharistic devotion is widespread. You mention how adoration of the Blessed Sacrament takes place in almost all the parishes, especially on Thursdays. I rejoice that this practice has been kept alive among the faithful, since it proclaims faith in Christ's real presence in the Eucharist, and it also encourages union with and trust in the One who promised to stay with his disciples "always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28,20).
8. One of the urgent needs of our time, as I stressed in my Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio
ineunte, is attention to families since they are experiencing "a radical and widespread crisis" (n. 47) because of the serious threats that beset them today: the breakup of marriages, the scourge of abortion, the contraceptive mentality, moral corruption, infidelity and violence in the home, factors that endanger the family, which is the primary cell of society and of the Church.
To make the values of the Gospel present in the world, Christians must be firmly rooted in love of God and fidelity to Christ. I urge you to redouble your efforts to form an adult laity that will take an active part in the Church's life and mission; for this purpose you have useful organizations such as the Institute for Advanced Catechetical Studies in San Salvador, where catechists can be formed for their mission. In this work, I also urge you to pay special attention to young people who are exposed to the attractions of illusory ways of life. Present the full truth of Christian life and spirituality to them, so that they may learn the effective values and models to face the challenges of today.