Reform Calls for Holy Bishops, Says John Paul II

Addresses a Group of Visiting U.S. Prelates

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 2, 2004 ( The necessary reform of the Church in the United States calls above all for the «interior renewal» and «conversion» of bishops, says John Paul II.

In a meeting today with the pastors of the ecclesiastical provinces of Atlanta and Miami, the Pope indicated the first challenge that the U.S. Catholic community faces, shaken by the scandals attributed to priests, is «the renewal of the episcopal office.»

«The history of the Church demonstrates that there can be no effective reform without interior renewal. This is true not only of individuals, but also of every group and institution in the Church,» the Holy Father told the bishops, who were on their five-yearly visit to Rome.

«In the life of every bishop,» he continued, «the challenge of interior renewal must involve an integral understanding of his service as ‘pastor gregis’ (pastor of the flock), entrusted by Christ’s will with a specific ministry of pastoral governance in the Church and the responsibility and apostolic power which accompany that ministry.»

Therefore, the «apostolic authority» of the bishop «must be seen first and foremost as a religious witness to the risen Lord, to the truth of the Gospel, and to the mystery of salvation present and at work in the Church,» the Pope said.

«The renewal of the Church is thus closely linked to the renewal of the episcopal office,» he said. «Since the bishop is called in a unique way to be an ‘alter Christus’ (another Christ), a vicar of Christ in and for his local Church, he must be the first to conform his life to Christ in holiness and constant conversion.»

The Holy Father added: «Only by himself putting on the mind of Christ and acquiring a fresh, spiritual way of thinking, will he [the bishop] be able to carry out effectively his role as a successor of the apostles, the guide of the faith community, and the coordinator of those charisms and missions which the Holy Spirit constantly pours out upon the Church.»

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