Church's Educational and Charitable Works Must Be Truly "Catholic," Says Pope

Receives U.S. Bishops From the Northwest and Alaska

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 24, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II says that Catholic educational and charitable works must be “Catholic in their own understanding and Catholic in their identity.”

The Pope emphasized this today in an address to U.S. bishops from the northwestern ecclesiastical provinces of Portland, Seattle and Anchorage, at the close of their five-yearly visit to Rome.

The educational and charitable institutions of the Church “exist for only one reason: to proclaim the Gospel,” the Holy Father said.

“Their testimony must always be ‘ex corde Ecclesiae,’ from the authentic heart of the Church,” he continued. “It is of utmost importance, therefore, that the institutions of the Church be genuinely Catholic in their own understanding and Catholic in their identity.”

“Those who participate in the apostolates of these institutions, including those who have no faith, should show sincere and respectful appreciation for the mission that constitutes their inspiration and profound raison d’être,” the Pontiff said.

“The numerous institutions of the Church in the United States — schools, universities, hospitals and charitable agencies — not only must help the faithful to think and act in full accord with the Gospel, overcoming all separation between faith and life, but must also offer a clear institutional testimony of the saving truth,” he explained.

“This calls for the constant re-examination of their priorities in the light of their mission and the offering of a convincing testimony, in a pluralist society, of the teaching of the Church, in particular with respect to human life, marriage and the family, and of the correct ordering of public life,” John Paul II added.

Regarding the educational institutions in particular, he emphasized that “they will only be able to contribute effectively to the new evangelization if they defend and foster clearly their Catholic identity.”

“This implies that the principles of education they impart must make reference constantly to Jesus Christ and his message, exactly as the Church presents it in her dogmatic and moral teaching,” the Pope said.

“What is more, an authentic Catholic education will promote an integration of learning in the context of a vision of the human person and of the world that is illuminated by the Gospel,” he added.

The Holy Father stressed the need to support the work of the “parish schools” that “have done much to offer a solid academic, moral and religious education to many Americans, Catholics and non-Catholics.”

These principles are also valid for the hospitals and Catholic charitable works, the Pope said. He asked that policies be established “in total conformity with the moral teaching of the Church in Catholic health care organizations.”

He concluded: “Each one of the aspects of their life must reflect their religious inspiration and intimate union with the mission of the Church to carry supernatural light, healing, and hope to men and women of all the states in their earthly pilgrimage.”

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