The Holy See
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Vatican, Bologna Hall
Tuesday 23 April 2002


Your Eminences, 
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, 

I wish to open this meeting with the words of Psalm 133, which we often sing: "Ecce qua m bonum et quam iucundum habitare fratres in unum ", "How good and how pleasant it is when brothers live in unity" (v. 1). 

This is a distressing time for the Church and for all of us. Still, the joy of Easter must be the disposition of our heart and the source of our confidence in addressing the present difficulties. 

It is true that the immediate reason for this fraternal meeting of the Pastors of various particular Churches in the United States of America with the Holy Father and some of his collaborators is our common concern about what has emerged so forcefully in the last three months. It is a sign of charity to "rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep", "gaudere cum gaudentibus et fiere cum flentibus ", as Saint Paul wrote to the Romans (Rom 12: 15). 

As we begin this meeting, the Holy Father has asked me to convey greetings to you, the Cardinals and Bishops from the United States. He has urged me to assure you of the importance he attaches to this meeting, in which we will study the many issues involved and share our pastoral experience. 

As you are well aware, this meeting has come about for two purposes. On the one hand, a number of American Bishops expressed a desire to inform the Holy See of the difficulties in which they have found themselves in these last months. On the other, the various Roman Dicasteries also wish to hear at first hand from the American Cardinals and the leading officials of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops an overall evaluation of the situation. 

We have come together today, conscious of the great responsibility which Christ has laid upon us for the good of God's People. Let us not be disheartened by the difficulties involved; let us seek the way forward in fidelity to the great tradition of the Church, Mother and Teacher, instrument of justice, mercy, and redemption. 

Our task is to reflect on the problems of the present moment with great openness of spirit, knowing that the Church should be transparent. The Church loves the truth, and must always put it into practice in charity, following what St Paul taught nearly two thousand years ago: "veritatem facientes in caritatem" (Eph 4:15)