John Paul II Meets Bishop-Friends of Focolare Movement

Encourages Them to Promote «Spirituality of Communion»

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 1, 2002 ( John Paul II received in audience about 80 bishops who are friends of the Focolare Movement, an ecclesial reality founded by Chiara Lubich.

During the meeting Thursday, the Holy Father encouraged the bishops to promote «the spirituality of communion» on which he himself reflected in «Novo Millennio Ineunte,» his programmatic letter for the Church at the start of the new century.

The spirituality of communion was the subject that gathered the bishops in Castel Gandolfo, who were celebrating the 25th anniversary of the first meeting of bishop-friends of the Focolares.

The Pope explained that communion in the Church is a «constitutive reality of its very nature,» as it is called to be a «sign and instrument of intimate union with God and of the unity of the whole of mankind.»

«Therefore, communion within the Christian people must be increasingly assimilated, lived and manifested, thanks also to a determined programmatic commitment, at the level of the universal Church and of the local Churches,» the Holy Father added. Such a commitment must begin with the pastors, he said.

Service to communion «is intrinsically characterized by the Cross,» which reconciled men with the Father and with one another, the Pope said. Following Jesus´ example, «the Church, Mystical Body of Christ, continues his work,» he added.

This was the experience of the apostles, the Holy Father said. Their «ministry of communion and evangelization enjoyed the same fruitfulness of Christ´s: the fruitfulness of the grain of wheat that produces much fruit if it dies, and because it dies, in the earth,» John Paul II explained.

The most excellent sign of this fruitfulness «are the fruits of the Spirit, especially love, joy and peace, which, in a variety of expressions and charisms, characterize the testimony of saints of all times and nations,» the Pope concluded.

John Paul II greeted Chiara Lubich especially, who was in the audience. She has held several meetings and conferences with the bishops at Castel Gandolfo, some 30 kilometers (18 miles) from Rome.

Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, archbishop of Prague, greeted the Bishop of Rome on behalf of all those present. The cardinal outlined the history of the bishop-friends of the Focolares since their first meeting in 1977.

«We were 12 then; today we are several hundred bishops who meet in several parts of the world to understand more profoundly the spirituality of communion, which arose in the Focolare Movement,» the cardinal said.

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