Church´s Priorities in Russia: Clergy and Family

Pope Outlines Vision for Bishops in Ex-Soviet Nations

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 9, 2001 ( The Church´s top priorities in Russia must include formation of native-born clergy and the reconstruction of the family, John Paul II said today.

Concluding a series of meetings with bishops of ex-Soviet countries, the Pope outlined priorities for the three episcopal conferences representing Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia.

His longest message was addressed to Bishop Tadeusz Kondruszewicz of Moscow, and to the other three apostolic administrators of the Russian Federation. The Pope referred to the tragic effects of militant atheism. But he also mentioned the efforts of the local churches which have translated the liturgy, the catechism and magisterial documents to make them accessible to Russians.

John Paul II emphasized the importance of forming a native-born clergy, capable of «understanding in depth the mentality and legacy of the great people to whom they belong.»

The Holy Father also urged bishops to the family, destroyed by «the spiritual and moral desolation left as inheritance by the century that has just passed.»

«Open [to families] the treasures of divine mercy and break for them the bread of the truth of Christ,» the Pope said. «This is the great apostolic action you are called to carry forward with those whom God has placed by your side: priests, consecrated persons and lay collaborators.»

The Pope also recommended that the bishops undertake «respectful» and «patient dialogue» with the Russian Orthodox Church. He repeated John XXIII´s rule for ecumenical dialogue: «There is much more that unites us, than separates us.»

To the churches of the Caucasus, John Paul II recommended they spread a new culture, based on respect for others, and acknowledgment of the primacy of God and spiritual values. The Pope reminded the bishops of the Church´s preferential option for the poor.

Addressing the small but promising communities of Central Asia, where Christians are a minority in Muslim societies, the Pontiff said a tentative «spring» is beginning for these young churches.

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