Internal Strife Weakens the Church, John Paul II Warns

Emphasizes Unity at Synod´s Closing Mass

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 28, 2001 ( At the Mass that officially closed the Synod of Bishops, John Paul II warned that the weakness of the Church lies “in division and internal opposition.”

The four-week assembly focused on the topic “The Bishop: Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World.” The synod culminated the series of ecclesial summits held since the Second Vatican Council on the different states of life — lay, priestly and religious — in the Church.

In bidding farewell to the synod fathers gathered for the solemn concelebrated Mass in St. Peter´s Basilica, John Paul II in his homily noted with satisfaction that the word heard most often during the synod was “communion.”

He said the synod demonstrated that “the Church´s strength is her communion; her weakness is division and internal opposition.”

The Bishop of Rome cautioned that only “if the deep and convinced unity of the shepherds among themselves and with the Successor of Peter is clearly perceptible — just as the bishops with their priests — can a credible answer be given to the challenges that come from today´s social and cultural context.”

The Mass was concelebrated by 55 cardinals, seven patriarchs, 70 archbishops and 106 bishops. John Paul II sent “particular greetings to the bishops of continental China, whose absence at the synod has not prevented us from feeling their spiritual closeness in memory and in prayer.”

The Holy Father also requested that episcopal conferences “study how to attribute value to the bishops emeriti who are still in good health and rich in energy.”

Of the 4,390 bishops worldwide, 2,490 have diocesan responsibilities, 1,049 are titular bishops (with no diocesan responsibilities) and 851 are bishops emeriti — that is, retired.

Lastly, the Pope pointed to the example of “the 15 bishops canonized during the 20th century,” whom he named one by one. Among them were martyrs Bishop John Fisher of Rochester, England, and Archbishop Oliver Plunkett of Armagh in Ireland; and Bishop John Neumann of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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