CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 19, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address delivered Saturday to John Paul II by the president of the episcopal conference of the Pacific, Archbishop Anthony Sablan Apuron, of Agana, Guam, on behalf of the prelates present.
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Most Holy Father,
We, the ordinaries of 17 canonical jurisdictions in the far-flung Pacific region called CEPAC gather with you today to offer you our filial love and prayers. We humbly ask for your blessing upon our clergy, religious and faithful of our dioceses, as we continue to serve Jesus Christ and his Church in one another.
Some of us were present here in Rome when in November 2001 you transmitted through the Internet for the very first time your apostolic exhortation “Ecclesia in Oceania” as the others welcomed it almost instantaneously in their home dioceses. Since its reception, we have sought to disseminate the document and to make its contents known to as many people as possible so that a deeper understanding of the faith will result in more committed Christian Catholics for our day.
Most Holy Father, the Church in our home dioceses is faced with many challenges. With the limited number of personnel in priests, religious and faithful, our population is gradually growing and our resources, both natural and economic, are being depleted or are becoming insufficient so that we struggle to find creative ways to answer to man’s needs without neglecting our dependence on God.
As experienced worldwide, vocations to the priesthood and religious life have been waning. However, signs of growth in our seminaries and religious communities within our region give us hope that the Lord will send laborers into his vineyard if we pray constantly. Pray with us, then, that the Lord will continue to move our young men and women to dedicate themselves to his service in love.
The people of our region have a deep affection for the Church. Many trace their roots to their Catholic ancestors. But many are they who hunger to deepen their quest for God and thirst to experience him in the living out of their faith.
And so we, as clergy and religious, need to serve them with a better formation in the content and implications of their faith for this modern world. Because we earnestly need to help them recover the missionary spirit of those who first brought the faith to our islands, and, who by their witness and life, led others to Jesus Christ and thus changed the face of the earth, we pledge to continue this mission of Christ.
Most Holy Father, we thank you sincerely for your ministry as Vicar of Christ and as Successor of Peter and we humbly ask for your prayers and your blessing.