Maintain Unity of Faith and Church, Pope Tells Bishops

At a Meeting With New Prelates of Missionary Areas

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 16, 2004 ( The safeguarding of the faith and the unity of the Church were the priorities John Paul II emphasized when meeting with newly appointed bishops of mission territories.

The 130 new bishops — the majority from French-, Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries of Africa, Asia, America and Oceania — are attending a seminar organized by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

«In all cultures,» the Pope told the bishops, «your Churches» are «called to manifest the communion of the only Church of Christ, in fidelity to the magisterium.»

«Your first concern is to be diligent guardians of the integrity of the faith and of the unity of the Church,» he said today.

The Holy Father urged the prelates to ensure that «communion with the Roman Pontiff and with other bishops grows ceaselessly, especially within your episcopal conference and your ecclesiastical province.»

John Paul II also encouraged the prelates to be «models for the Christian people, drawing from spiritual experience, an intense sacramental life, and permanent formation, the strength to be servants of the Gospel.»

«Bishops must promote tirelessly an authentic pastoral program and a pedagogy of holiness,» the Pope added.

The Pontiff summarized his advice in an expression of the Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 9:16: «If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it!»

The countries most represented at the bishops’ audience with the Pope were Madagascar, Congo, Vietnam and Colombia.

The seminar runs through Saturday. It is the second course the Holy See has organized for new bishops of mission territories. Last year the course brought together 169 English-speaking prelates.

Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, is presiding over the seminar.

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