Pope Says He Remains Close to U.S. Clergy

Receives Group from Rome’s North American College

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 10, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II expressed his closeness to U.S. priests and seminarians when he received a large group of them in the Vatican.

«At a time of difficulty and suffering for Catholics in the United States, I assure all of you of my prayerful solidarity,» the Pope said today, when he received 380 participants in a meeting organized by the Pontifical North American College.

The meeting was called to celebrate the 50th anniversary of two events in the history of the college: the dedication of the seminary building on the Janiculum Hill and the inauguration of the Casa Santa Maria as a priestly house of study.

«May this anniversary deepen your commitment to the college’s continuing mission of training priests imbued with a deep sense of the universality of the Church and zeal for the spread of God’s Kingdom both in your native land and throughout the world,» the Pope said.

«It is my fervent hope that these days of reflection, prayer and priestly fraternity will strengthen you in your noble vocation to be disciples of Jesus Christ, witnesses to the truth of his Gospel, and shepherds completely committed to the renewal of his Church in faith, hope and love,» John Paul II added.

«Amid the challenges and hopes of the present moment, I urge you to keep your gaze fixed on Jesus, our High Priest, who never ceases to inspire and perfect our faith,» he added. «Commending you and the faithful whom you serve to the loving prayers of Our Lady of Humility, patroness of the college, I cordially impart my apostolic blessing as a pledge of joy and peace in the Lord.»

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