Pacific Prelates Encouraged to Innovate

John Paul II Addresses Visiting Bishops

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 19, 2004 ( In the face of the growth of secularism, John Paul II has appealed, especially to bishops, to find new ways of proclaiming the faith.

When meeting Saturday with the bishops of the 17 jurisdictions that make up the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific, the Pope made an analysis of the challenges facing the island countries where Catholics are, in the main, a minority.

The members of this episcopal conference include the bishops of American Samoa, the Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, New Caledonia, the Northern Mariana Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and Wallis and Futuna.

In his address, delivered in French and English, the Holy Father said that in the reports the pastors of those Churches has given him, on the occasion of their five-yearly visit to Rome, he perceived their «worries about the winds of change extending to your shores.»

«The encroachment of secularism, particularly in the form of consumerism, and the long reach of the most insidious aspects of the media, which convey a deformed outlook on life, the family, religion and morality, unsettle the very foundations of traditional cultural values,» he observed.

«In the face of such challenges, the peoples of Oceania are growing in their understanding of the need to renew their faith and find a more abundant life in Christ,» the Pontiff said.

«In this quest they look to you, with great expectation, to be steadfast ministers of truth and audacious witnesses to Christ,» he continued.

«They wish for you to be vigilant in seeking new ways to teach faith in such a way that they will be strengthened by the power of the Gospel, which must permeate their way of thinking, standards of judgment, and norms of behavior,» he said.

«This demands that you, as teachers of the faith and heralds of the Word, preach with clarity and precision how faith in fact has the force to shape culture itself by penetrating it to its very core,» the Holy Father added.

«Anchored in the Christian tradition, and alert to the signs of contemporary cultural shifts, your episcopal ministry will thus be a sign of hope and direction for all,» he said.

«In this context, it is your preached and lived testimony of God’s extraordinary ‘yes’ to humanity which will inspire your peoples to reject the negative aspects of new forms of colonization and to embrace all that begets new life in the Spirit!,» the Holy Father said.

In his address to the Pope on behalf of the bishops present, Archbishop Anthony Sablan Apuron of Agana, Guam, and president of the episcopal conference, mentioned that the prelates have as their present objective the implementation of the 2001 apostolic exhortation «Ecclesia in Oceania.»

In that document, the Holy Father summarized the conclusions of the first Synod of Bishops in the history of Oceania, held Nov. 22-Dec. 12, 1998.

The Episcopal Conference of the Pacific, or «Conferentia Episcopalis Pacifici» (in Latin), groups together the heads of ecclesiastical jurisdictions, dioceses and similar bodies of the islands of the Pacific Ocean.

It treats subjects of common interest, according to the law of the Church. It is an instrument at the service of dialogue among its members, in particular, it supervises the St. Peter Chanel Major Seminary or «Pacific Regional Seminary» of Suva in Fiji, where the headquarters of its secretariat is established.

The conference is ordinarily represented by its president, Archbishop Apuron, aided by a secretary-general and assisted by a permanent council.

The Northern Region comprises the Province of Guam; the Central Region the Provinces of Samoa and Suva; and the French-speaking Region the Provinces of Papeete and Noumea.

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