VATICAN CITY, JAN. 6, 2003 ( John Paul II ordained 12 bishops on the solemnity of the Epiphany and asked them to "become light to guide the way of nations, weighed down by darkness and confusion."

The Pope bestowed on the bishops the symbols of their ministry: the ring, sign of fidelity; the miter, symbol of holiness; and the staff, symbol of the shepherd.

Four of the new bishops come from Italy. The others are from Iraq, Vietnam, South Korea, Ireland, Slovakia, Ukraine, Benin and Spain.

Among the new bishops are close papal collaborators, such as Bishop Angelo Amato of the Salesian Society of St. John Bosco, new secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; as well as Irish Bishop Brian Farrell of the Legionaries of Christ, new secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

During the homily, the Holy Father stressed two principles for their work: "Fidelity to the Catholic tradition and commitment to ecumenical dialogue."

Another group of new prelates -- Bishops Paul Tschang In-nam (Korea), Celestino Migliore (Italy), Pierre Nguyen Van Tot (Vietnam), Pedro López Quintana (Spain) -- will be papal representatives in Asian and African countries and before the United Nations.

The Pope requested that their "pastoral ministry contribute to make the light of Christ shine among peoples. While respecting their institutions and cultures, invite the nations to which you are sent to be open to the Gospel. Only Christ can guarantee a profound renewal of consciences and peoples," he said.

The rest of the new bishops will exercise their ministry in dioceses. These are Bishops Andraos Abouna, auxiliary of the Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldeans (Iraq); Rene Marie Ehuzu of Abimey (Benin); Jan Babjak of the Eparchy of Presov (Slovakia); Milan Sasik, apostolic administrator of the Eparchy of Mukacheve (Ukraine); Giuseppe Nazzaro, apostolic vicar of Alep of the Latins (Syria), and Calogero La Piana of Mazara del Vallo (Italy).

"Love the ecclesial communities that will receive you and that I greet with affection," the Holy Father told this last group. "May they see in you diligent and generous pastors. With the example and help of the Good Shepherd, always lead believers to the pastures of eternal life!"

The celebration was held in a festive atmosphere. Following the Mass, a cavalcade led by the three Magi and composed of a thousand participants dressed in traditional costumes, entered St. Peter's Square.