ADDRESS OF JOHN PAUL II
Saturday, 13 April 2002
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
1. I am pleased to receive you today, during your ad limina visit which, after a busy time, has brought you to Rome to renew your pastoral commitment at the tombs of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and to strengthen your bonds with the See of Peter and his successors, in whom is found "a permanent and visible source and foundation of unity in faith and communion" (Lumen gentium, n. 18).
I cordially thank Cardinal Julio Terrazas, Archbishop of Santa Cruz and President of the Episcopal Conference of Bolivia, for his words of respect, affection and support, while he informed me of the hopes and anxieties that you deal with in your generous involvement in the pastoral ministry.
The rich experience of such a significant moment in the history of the Church and of humanity must not simply remain a memory, but must be the school and stimulus for a new evangelizing dynamism, since "In the cause of the Kingdom there is no time for looking back, even less for settling into laziness" (Novo Millennio
ineunte, n. 15). There is no shortage of important challenges to be faced in your ecclesial communities. I wish to encourage you strongly in your involvement, which often seems to be full of apparently insoluble difficulties, recalling that Jesus himself sent out His own disciples to preach while they took nothing with them (cf. Mt 10,9-10) and that Peter, fully trusting in the Master's words, made a catch as abundant as it was unexpected (cf. Lk 5,6).
As Pastors you know well the delicate nature of this work, which, while it demands boldness of becoming the mediators of the call of the Master through direct and personal contact, also requires a patient spiritual guidance and the indomitable hope of the sower, who continues in his task while aware of the uncertainty of the harvest.
I invite you, therefore, to continue to instill courage in your seminarians and priests, without being afraid to demand what is required by the Church of her ordained ministers, given the example of the Good Shepherd. I think of necessary priestly fraternity, without any kind of criticism, prejudice or discrimination; of indispensable obedience and communion, without reticence, with one's Bishop, to whom they must give their full readiness to obey with joy and generosity; of a sincere and real appreciation of celibacy and of indifference to material goods (cf. Presbyterorum
ordinis, n. 14-17). Your pastoral charity will find the way to make these requirements, more than being just difficult renunciations, to be accepted and lived with the joyful heart of one who "on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it" (Mt 13,46). You know how important in many cases is the Bishop's personal, cheerful and fatherly relationship with his priests, by his showing interest even in the little things of daily life that have an impact on the priests' personal and pastoral souls. This is precisely one of the better places for developing the "spirituality of communion" that must characterize the Church of the third millennium (cf. Novo Millennio
ineunte, n. 43).
They give this service in many areas, according to the charism of their Institute, from the direct apostolate in the parishes and missions to educational and health care institutions, or social and charitable assistance. They not only deserve the gratitude of the Pastors, but also a constant encouragement to support and increase their generous commitment, in full harmony with the directives of each particular Church. This will help them to become more fully aware that their contribution to the life of the ecclesial community is not limited to the material effectiveness of their service, but that, above all, they enrich it with their personal and communal witness to the Beatitudes of the Gospel, the presence of their charism, that reminds everyone of the immeasurable action of the Spirit, and gives this most important commitment to contribute in a special way in order that the communities continue to be "genuine "schools' of prayer" (ibid., n. 33).
In this regard, it is absolutely necessary to ensure that such lay dedication does not at times create "the temptation of being so strongly interested in Church services and tasks that some fail to become actively engaged in their responsibilities in the professional, social, cultural, and political world" (Christifideles laici, n. 2). In fact, the lay vocation has to play an important role in today's society, in which, as we see also in Bolivia, rapid and profound changes are taking place that require the respect of ethical principles and the guidance of Gospel values, in order that temporal reality be ordered to God (cf. Lumen gentium, n. 31). Likewise, no means are to be spared for the ongoing formation of the laity, since they are called to be the primary ones who implement the social doctrine of the Church.
It is therefore important that every Bishop give special care to developing his responsibility in this area "so [to] gather and mould the whole family of his flock that everyone, conscious of his own duties, may live and work in the communion of love" (Christus
Dominus, n. 16). The different kinds of associations are good ways of realizing this commitment among the laity and it is therefore necessary to promote them as an authentic "springtime of spirituality" for the Church (cf. Novo Millennio
ineunte, n. 33). As Pastors you know the inestimable good which the various lay associations, when they follow the "criteria of ecclesiality" (cf. Christifideles
laici, n. 30), can contribute both to the sanctification of their members and to the evangelizing action of the Church.
In the rich Bolivian tradition there is no shortage either of suitable means of expression able to guide a profound lived experience of faith, nor of solid forms of popular piety which can reach the hearts of the people. The simplicity of these expressions must not be confused with a superficiality of faith.
This advance of the sects must be a reason for great concern, especially when it is caused by your not paying personal attention to the faithful, according to their condition, or by not carrying out an evangelization that is aware of the inner expectations of those who long to hear in their hearts the words of Jesus: "Today salvation has come to this house" (Lk 19,9). In effect, experience shows that sects do not thrive where the Church lives an intense spiritual life and is committed to the service of charity.
In reality, this is only a temporary part of the greater task of carrying out a much more extensive work, that involves evangelization and promotes justice and fraternal solidarity among all citizens.
Through you, I call upon all Bolivian believers, so that, relying upon the faith which they profess and the hope in Christ which animates them, they may become the advocates of a society that is averse to every selfish division, to any form of violence or lack of respect for the rights of the human person, especially the right to life.
9. In concluding this meeting, I invoke upon you and your dioceses the maternal protection of Our Lady of Copacabana, asking her to watch over all Bolivians. Please bring the greeting and affection of the Pope to the homes, communities, and parishes, encouraging them to spread the great values of the Gospel. I repeat today what I said at the airport of Santa Cruz at the end of my pastoral visit to your country in 1988: "I carry all of you in my heart and will keep an unforgettable memory of all of you" (Discourse, 14 May 1988, ORE, 20 June 1988, n. 2).
With these sentiments I cordially impart to you my Apostolic Blessing, which I am happy to extend to all of the sons and daughters of Bolivia.